This last year was steady for Shenandoah Tower Service. Not too rambunctious. There was enough work to keep everyone busy. As far as the industry was concerned, we took the time and achieved some traction in healing some self-inflicted wounds concerning how business is done, how people are trained and how we are held accountable. In the coming years, it should get better and bigger as we move forward improving training and certification. Safety should improve. Professionalism in the industry should improve.
In order to fully get there, the industry had to come to consensus and build a bridge between the different parties to further enhance mutual understanding and cooperation. The development of the National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA) to provide independent assessments of knowledge and skills and provide verifiable worker certification in order to enhance training is a very positive move. It has momentum and TIRAP [Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program], which is a public-private partnership to develop apprenticeships and training for the telecom workforce, has momentum. Both of these organizations, their products and services, are being formed from scratch. It takes a lot of time. I am just grateful so many people are willing to volunteer their time to get it done.
Shenandoah Tower Service is engaged across the spectrum with local governments, carriers, utilities and tower companies. They all have a lot of work to do out there. There are still towers to be built and many others need to be modified. There are a lot of antennas to be installed and an increasing amount of backhaul work. Then there are the outliers, the broadcast industry re-pack, which will follow the broadcast spectrum incentive auction, and the beginning of the FirstNet deployment.
This should be a robust year in our industry and I can see that escalating in 2017, 2018 and 2019. I am just hoping we will have enough of the training, certification and re-thinking done to enhance the protection of the workforce before we begin these other endeavors.
One way to achieve that, beyond the training and certification efforts for the climber, is for every other industry discipline/entity to commit to doing all they can to ensure worker safety. My plea is for the carriers, tower owners, engineering firms, tower manufacturers, antenna manufacturers and turfing contractors to adopt a new method of operation; that is Prevention Through Design!
Let me remind you of what I consider the Seven Deadly Sins; all of which can be addressed with Prevention Through Design thinking:
• Safety as a mantra, but profits as the most important goal
• Hiring the wrong person or company to perform the scope of work
• Insufficient training of employees
• Failure of the competent person
• Design flaws creating unsafe conditions
• Compromised climber access/climbing facilities
• Climbers seen as machines, not people
People should not be treated as machines. There is no reason to build out any of these new networks without minimizing the risk to tower climbing personnel.
Dave Anthony is the CEO of Shenandoah Tower Service, based in Staunton, Virginia.