At the AGL Conference in Boston, Nov. 5, the National Association of Tower Erectors announced the availability of the NATE EXCHANGE, and online platform for tower construction and maintenance companies and individual tower technicians to gain access to the training courses tailor to the needs of the tower industry. NATE member companies will qualify for discounted rates on designated training courses offered on this exchange portal. The EXCHANGE includes profiles of the companies providing the training, NATE member discounts, evaluation forms and user-posted reviews. Course categories include confined space, electrical, equipment/vehicle operations, fall protection and rescue, first aid/CPR/AED, gin pole, hoist, ladder/scaffolding, OSHA 10-hour and 30-hour, RF awareness, rigging/signal person, rope, and AM detuning. natehome.com
Pat Cipov, president of Cipov Enterprises, Sumter, S.C., has been named chairwoman of the National Association of Tower Erectors. She replaces Jim Coleman who is stepping down as Association’s chairman after assuming new responsibilities as senior vice president of the new organization resulting from the merger between Sabre and Midwestern Underground Technology Inc. She offered up her thoughts on her career and her goals at NATE in an interview with AGL Bulletin’s Editor J. Sharpe Smith.
Congratulations on your appointment as the first woman chair of NATE.
I am truly humbled and honored to serve NATE in any way I can and look forward to continuing to work hard every day to ensure that safety remains the top priority in the industry. NATE is fortunate to have women serving in leadership roles on our standing committees and at the board level.
Tell me about your career and why tower safety has become important to you?
I began to work in the tower industry in 1978 when I joined my brother’s company in Sumter, South Carolina, just east of Columbia. I have done it all. I have worked in the field, climbing towers. I graduated to being the hoist operator and then when our business became stable enough, I graduated to working only in the office. We build and maintain communications towers for utilities, emergency services and Motorola Service Shops. We have very good customers, some of whom we have had since 1978.
Our company, Cipov Enterprises, is a small company (as are many NATE member companies) with 10 employees. We opted against doing cell tower work so we could remain small, in order to maintain our commitment to our customers and stand behind our work.
When Cipov Enterprises started, we had no formal training in safety. I first learned of “safety” and industry best practices when I started getting involved with NATE. I have continued my quest for knowledge every day since. Learning about industry safety never ends. It is an ongoing process.
What would you like to accomplish as chairwoman of NATE?
I will continue the efforts of our association to create a culture of safety throughout the industry. This includes continuing to establish and strengthen relationships and our ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders involved in our diverse industry; including the tower owners, wireless carriers, equipment manufacturers, engineers, public safety officials and utility providers. This also includes continuing to work with NATE member companies and their elevated workers to ensure that they have access to the appropriate safety resources in order to ensure that work is being conducted in a safe manner on tower sites.
Education and training are important to developing safety awareness. How is the association getting the word out?
Individually and collectively, NATE continues to seize any and all opportunities to foster a culture of safety throughout the industry. For example, NATE has increased its presence at industry trade shows and state wireless association events in order to get our safety message out to a diverse group of industry stakeholders. Conversations via all outlets must be repeated over and over. The message cannot be communicated just once.
The association is also in the process of developing an online website feature called the NATE Exchange. The NATE Exchange will be a convenient, consumer-driven “one stop shop” platform for tower construction companies to gain access to the most sophisticated and up to date training courses offered by training companies in the industry. We are excited about this project and feel that it will enhance the return on investment of a NATE membership.
What is the philosophy behind the new name of the NATE UNITE conference? How will it be different from previous conferences?
NATE has done a great job through the years hosting one of the premier conferences and expositions in the broadcast and telecommunications tower industry. This year, the Association made the decision to re-brand the show from a marketing and promotional standpoint. The NATE UNITE name and theme reflects both the strong bond that NATE members share and the association’s continued efforts in seeking to bring all of the industry stakeholders (tower construction firms, wireless carriers, tower owners, public safety officials, utility companies and equipment manufacturers, etc) together in one location to promote safety, participate in educational panel sessions and provide exhibiting and networking opportunities.
We are very excited about the upcoming NATE UNITE 2014 Conference, Feb. 24-27, in San Diego, Calif. The association is currently in the process of finalizing the schedule and we are excited about some of the new program offerings and events that will be held at the gathering.
Do you have any plans for further developing your relationship with OSHA?
NATE continues to work with OSHA. The association’s Legislative and Regulatory Committee meets with officials from OSHA in Washington, D.C. on a quarterly basis. NATE once had a national partnership with OSHA, which ultimately was not renewed in 2009. NATE proceeded by creating our own internal Star Initiative Program to fill the void of the lost partnership. There are many NATE members that choose to go above and beyond the requisite level of safety requirements and the minimum OSHA requirements. The STAR Initiative allows members the opportunity to demonstrate a higher level of commitment to achieving a safe work environment within their respective companies.
The National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) has named public affairs executive Todd Schlekeway as its executive director.
Patrick Howey resigned as executive director last fall after more than 10 years with the organization. Paula Nurnberg, NATE’s operations director, has been in charge of the day-to-day activities of the organization since his departure.
Schlekeway has seven years of experience in the public affairs industry, as founder and principal of Full Court Strategies Group. His experience includes government relations, media relations, client relations, issue advocacy and event management. Prior to working in the public affairs, Schlekeway worked on the U.S. Presidential Inaugural Committee in 2004-2005 and on several U.S. Senate campaigns in South Dakota. He also served two terms in South Dakota’s state legislature
“I think my experience in public policy and public affairs communications is a good fit for NATE,” Schlekeway told AGL Bulletin.
Initially, Schlekeway plans to ramp up the association’s social media outreach and to revamp Tower Times magazine, adding more creative content.
“I want to continue to build inroads with the carriers, tower owners, general contractors and our members, of course, so the industry can come together,” Schlekeway said. “At NATE, we will relentlessly preach safety. We think there are opportunities out there to drive change in terms of creating a culture of safety.”
Schlekeway saw an opportunity in the ProPublica/PBS documentary on cell tower climber deaths to spread the association’s message of safety. He noted that NATE was already working to solve several of the problems covered by expose. For example, NATE has pushed for more consistent government regulation of multi-employer worksites and eliminating unrealistic deadlines that are a part of the 4G LTE build out.
“We have members that are walking away from jobs [with fast track deadlines], because they believe safety will be compromised,” Schlekeway said. “Number two, often times our members won’t do those projects for the money being offered, because of the layers of sub-contractors.”