Vertical Bridge has joined SBA Communications as tower companies that are setting certification requirements for tower site technicians in their master service agreements (MSA), according to the National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA). More towercos and carriers are lining up to support the wireless infrastructure industry’s certification efforts.
NWSA currently offers the following industry-wide certification programs: Telecommunications Tower Technician 1 (TTT-1), Telecommunications Tower Technician 2 (TTT-2), Antenna & Line Specialty, and Telecommunications Tower Foreman.
Since Vertical Bridge does not have its own tower climbers, so it designed its requirements based on what it expects it contractors to have in place. Language was inserted in the MSA that requires 25 percent of the workforce certified as TTT1 or TTT2 within a year and 50 percent within two years and 75 percent within threes of signing the contract.
“We did not go to 100 percent because you need to allow your vendors to bring in new people and train them,” said Bernard Borghei, Executive Vice President of Operations and Co-Founder of Vertical Bridge, who also serves on the NWSA Board of Governors. “The requirements are being gradually implemented because we do not yet have that many people certified.”
The certification requirements are meant to improve the quality of the work environment for all workers in the industry without putting undue stress on tower services companies, which are already working at capacity, according to Borghei.
“By phasing in the certification requirements, we are sending a message that we are serious about this,” he said. “We want it to be the standard of how we look after the people that work on our towers. But we want to do it in a business-friendly approach to give them enough time to do it in an orderly fashion.
To guarantee that contractors are meeting the tower climber certification goals, the tower industry will use Avetta, which vets suppliers, contractors and vendors for the telecom, oil & gas, chemical and manufacturing industries, among others.
Some companies are investing in climber training, but others are not and are happy to hire away the trained climbers, according to Borghei. “To me that is not a fair practice, but the only way to counter that is with requirements for training and certification across the industry,” he said. “Then stealing certified, trained employees will subside.”
SBA Also Requiring Certifications
AGL eDigest reported last week that SBA Communications announced its support for certifications performed by NWSA.
“SBA fully supports the mission of NWSA to enhance safety and improve quality on towers and other structures. We believe in it so strongly that starting next June, we will be ensuring vendors that work on our assets will obtain their certification over time,” said Mark Ciarfella, SBA Executive Vice President of Operations and member of NWSA’s Board of Directors.
Prior to climbing any SBA structure, all general contractors and lower tier subcontractors must meet the following guidelines and dates:
• Effective June 1, 2020: 25 percent of the company’s tower climbers must be NWSA TTT1 or TTT2 certified with a minimum of one certified technician on site.
• Effective February 1, 2021: 50 percent of the company’s tower climbers must be NWSA TTT1 or TTT2 certified with a minimum of two certified technicians on site.
Certification Set to Expand in Future
NWSA, headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, is a national non-profit assessment and certification organization established to provide independent assessments of knowledge and skills and provide verifiable worker certification in order to enhance safety, reduce workplace risk and improve the quality of work performed on wireless towers.
“NWSA’s vision from the very beginning is that these certification programs will get to scale through a marketplace-driven approach, and we applaud the continuing proactive leadership of SBA Communications and Vertical Bridge by placing NWSA credentialing requirements into their MSA’s,” said Executive Director Duane MacEntee.
Expect additional tower companies to follow SBA and Vertical Bridge’s lead. American Tower, Crown Castle, Atlas Tower are all on the NWSA Boar of Governors. Numerous carriers are represented on the NWSA Board of Governors, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless and Pioneer Telephone Cooperative.
Other assessment and certification programs NWSA will likely unveil in the future include rigging, small cell/das, structural modifications, gin pole operations, and broadcast tall tower technician.
Industry workers, companies and stakeholders are encouraged to visit the NWSA website at www.nws-a.org to learn more about the organization and how to begin the process of obtaining certification.