February 25, 2016 — The National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) and the Tower Family Foundation announced the establishment of a scholarship honoring the life of the late Ernie Jones this week during the annual NATE UNITE 2016 Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The Ernie Jones Memorial Civil Engineering Scholarship will be a $2,500 scholarship awarded annually to a junior or senior civil engineering student at the University of Evansville’s College of Engineering and Computer Science.
Ernie Jones passed away tragically in October of 2015 while inspecting a tower in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Ernie was a structural engineer who worked in the broadcast tower industry for 30 years, he serving as a professional engineer and president of Consolidated Engineering and a vice-president of Structural Engineering at Electronics Research. Ernie was also a participating member of the TR-14.7 Committee of the Telecommunications Industry Association and Electronics Industry Association since 1986 where he assisted with writing and approving the ANSI-TIA/EIA 222 standard, which is the American National Standard for Steel Antenna Towers and Antenna Supporting Structures.
February 22, 2016 — Panelists on the first day of NATE UNITE in New Orleans addressed efforts that will help National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA) develop its tower worker assessment and certification tests. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed recently by NWSA and the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP), a public/private apprenticeship program.
“Within the task force group, we have members of TIRAP who are involved in developing questions [for the assessment and certification tests],” said Chuck Slagle, a consultant with NWSA. “We have incorporated them into the process.”
The MOU says that there will be coordination and communication between the organizations, which will share technical information “to ensure job position descriptions and requirements are consistent among the same positions.”
NWSA and TIRAP were originally used different nomenclature for similar job position descriptions, according to Slagle. “We came together and agreed to use the TIRAP titles,” he said. “Additionally, they are going to recognize the NWSA certifications.”
There is still a need for volunteers who have experience as climbers to help NWSA develop its assessment and certification program. Slagle urged the industry to get involved.
Also speaking on the panel was Joel Oliva, an executive with the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, which entered into a professional partnership in July 2015 with NWSA for the development and administration of nationally accredited the certification programs, including the Telecommunications Tower Technician (TTT) test.
Additionally, the NWSA-NCCCO partnership includes a co-branding agreement to offer CCO Signalperson and Rigger certification programs, making them the first official certification programs to be made available by the NWSA.
NWSA Board of Governors Convene at NATE UNITE
Later in the week, NWSA convened its 28-member Board of Governors in New Orleans to discuss activities related to its worker certification program development process.
The Governors were updated on the Telecommunications Tower Technician I (TTTI) and Telecommunications Tower Technician II (TTTII) test development progress. The NWSA’s TTTI and TTTII certification programs are slated to be unveiled to the wireless industry marketplace late this year.
Additionally, the NWSA Governors began discussing the organization’s future certification programs, including Antenna & Line Foreman, Tower (Stacking) Foreman, Structural Modifications Foreman, DAS Systems, Small Cell Systems and Broadcast Structures. In the months ahead, the NWSA Board of Governors will define the role of an Exam Management Committee, an Ethics and Discipline Committee and an Appeals Committee.
(Watertown, SD) – The National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) today released a 100% Tie-Off Safety Video as part of the Association’s 2016 Climber Connection campaign. The video was released by the Association in advance of next week’s NATE UNITE 2016 Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The video highlights practical 100% Tie-Off safety tips for industry workers to follow to ensure that they are adhering to the standards and compliance directives that govern fall protection. The video includes aerial views of tower climbers working on a communications tower and a testimonial of a tower climber discussing safe 100% Tie-Off practices and promoting a zero tolerance policy in regards to the 100% Tie-Off law.
“Not only is 100% Tie-Off the law, but we all have families to go home to at the end of the day,” stated Nick Spiker from Peak Communications. “Thankfully, I’ve never fallen into my gear, but I always, always clip off. 100% Tie-Off is worth every second. It only takes once,” added Spiker, who has been an active tower climber for 14 years.
Click HERE to watch the 100% Tie-Off Safety Video. NATE encourages tower climbers and all wireless industry stakeholders to actively participate in this campaign by posting the 100% Tie-Off Video on their respective social networking platforms using the hash tag #ClimberConnection. NATE also encourages tower climbers to share their personal 100% Tie-Off tips through social interaction on the Association’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
Additionally, NATE encourages all employees and employers to help create a culture of safety within their respective companies by signing the 100% Tie-Off 24/7 Commitment Certificate. The certificate can be downloaded and printed directly from the Association’s website using the following link: http://natehome.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/100-Tie-Off-24-7-Certificate-PRINT-FILE.pdf.
The Climber Connection campaign was developed by the NATE Member Services Committee in conjunction with the NATE Safety & Education Committee and is designed to provide specific resources and communicate the Association’s message directly to the industry’s elevated workforce. A central element of the campaign is the official release of twelve Climber Connection safety videos; each focused on a unique safety topic or issue involving working at heights.
For more information on NATE, visit www.natehome.com today.
February 18, 2016 — Discussing best practices for improving tower safety was the first order of business as the FCC and the U.S. Department of Labor held the FCC and DoL Workshop on Tower Climber Safety and Apprenticeship Program, Feb. 11, at the FCC’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. It was the second FCC/DoL tower safety workshop in as many years.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler noted in opening remarks that the first tower safety workshop was held in October 2014 after the industry suffered a staggering number of fatalities that year and a similar number of tragedies the previous year. Since then, the wireless industry has rallied to make the tower environment safer, resulting in the creation of a wireless industry worker certification organization, National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA). Additionally, the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP) was formed to promote training by a joint venture of wireless companies, associations and the DoL. And the number of tower fatalities has dropped significantly.
But the chairman said more needs to be done as tower work is set to increase in the coming years.
“The problem [of tower fatalities] was addressed [in the first tower safety workshop]. The tragedies came down. But we are about to see a steep increase in construction on towers through cell splitting, small cells, [and because of the] additional 600 MHz spectrum obtained through the incentive auction and the broadcast re-pack,” Wheeler said. “To meet this demand there is going to be an influx of individuals to do the work. The new demand will stress the progress we have made. Our challenge is to be ready to deal with that stress that we know is coming.”
Contractual Controls Promise Safer Towers
The tower industry has made strides forward toward requiring all tower workers to be certified as competent, according to Kevin Schmidt, NWSA board member.
“There are contractual controls that will be put in to place,” Schmidt said. “The top national carriers have agreed to add into their contract language that anyone working on their site is going to have to be NWSA approved, starting later this year or early next year. That will eliminate the companies that send out the newer people that are not trained or certified and don’t know exactly what they are doing.”
Wade Sarver, blogger at Wade4Wireless.com, called for independent safety audits to ensure that contractors are living up to the agreement to hire certified climbers.
“How do we know there are certified climbers on the site when there are three contractors between the carrier and the tower service company?” Sarver said. “If a climber sees someone that is not certified on the tower, there should be a number for them to call to report the incident.”
Culture of Safety Another Key to Eliminating Fatalities
Don Doty, National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE), said that the industry needs to go beyond contract language to emphasize supervision to ensure that rules are followed 100 percent of the time.
“One of the keys to safety is supervision and oversight. We have found that the most important quality of a crew chief is one that will mentor the other climbers. It creates a trust environment. Having that open culture is very important,” Doty said.
Schmidt added that it all boils down to certified, competent climbers individually taking matters into their own hands to be 100 percent tied-off to the tower and to stop working if things seem unsafe.
Each tower service company should be open to communication about safety issues. But, in the cases where they aren’t, there should be a safety valve, according to Sarver, and fellow tower climbers should police each other. Additionally, the upper management in the company should be trained in tower safety so the culture of safety can trickle down.
“If you have a designated safety person you can go to openly and easily explain the situation after the climb, maybe you could get ideas as to what could have been done better,” he said. “If somebody screws up you have to let them know. It has to be a team effort.”
Long Hours Threaten Climber Safety; Planning Can be the Answer
Tower work can include long travel time and extended days on tower to meet tight deadlines, which can create pressure for workers to go up on the tower when they are less than 100 percent. John Parham, Jacobs Engineering Group, said from a safety perspective, the long hours of the job concern him most.
“We have extremely dedicated and hardworking employees, who work on an hourly basis,” Parham said. “We have to balance allowing them to work hard and provide for their families and constricting their hours so that they stay safe and well rested. It is a challenge we face every day.”
Parham said that one of the answers is for engineering firms to plan tower projects at least 12 months in advance and to form closer relationships with contractors. Instead of submitting bids for individual tower projects, Jacobs Engineering partners with several subcontractors so it can schedule the tower work in advance throughout the year.
“It’s a lot of work upfront, but it is less than the amount of time we spent on revisits, troubleshooting, or tracking down a crew that completed a site and is now back in another state and you are trying to get closeout documentation back to the wireless carrier. It saves time, effort and money in the long run,” Parham said.
Jacobs Engineering invites strategic partners to collocate putting their management into the Jacob’s office and operating their crews out of its warehouses. “It puts us on the same team because we see each other every day,” Parham said.
Sarver agreed, “I am a big fan of partnering. You know more about what the company is capable of doing, how qualified they are, how many crews they have and their specialties,” he said. “It’s important to know their skillsets.”
Tower Design Also a Key for Safe Workers
Panel members called for better engineered towers as an element of a comprehensive tower worker safety program.
Doty said processes and procedures should be developed to deploy anchorages where there aren’t any at this time, working in conjunction with engineers. “Engineers like [the late] Ernie Jones have taken that step forward to help,” he said.
Angela Jones, Union Wireless, (no relation to Ernie Jones) would like to see better towers upfront, with more room for tower workers to do their work at height.
“We need better engineering upfront in tower design. I would like to see a lot more platforms on the towers; there are not nearly enough of them,” Jones said. “Obviously there is more cost associated with designing safer towers. Union Wireless does not balk at that. We are willing to take that on, but we would like to see that adopted across the industry.”
By J. Sharpe Smith —
A number of applications for drones or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the wireless industry came to light this year — everything from asset auditing, RF planning and line-of-sight testing between radio towers. And companies were formed to use them.
It all began in April when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began granting exceptions to its rules to allow the use of commercial drones.
One of the first companies to get an exception was Solusia Air, which wanted to use UAS to perform asset audits and safety inspections for wireless and utility infrastructure firms.
Solusia Air attaches video, still and infrared cameras and other instruments on Leica Geosystems’ Aibot X6 multi-copters, which it then flies around the cell tower. The multi-copter has six rotors encased in a carbon fiber frame and a maximum payload of 4.4 pounds. The inspections produces high-definition photo and video inspection, asset audits, RF microwave path validation, intermodulation/interference identification and safety assessments.
In July, Nokia Networks employed drones carrying smartphones to analyze the wireless network at Dubai International Stadium. The drones gathered network data and provided key performance indicators at the stadium, which seats 25,000, and were also used for tower inspections, radio planning and line-of-sight testing between radio towers.
The INSPIRE1 drone was used for network optimization at the stadium, and Microdrones md4-1000 was used for tower inspection, LoS and radio site planning. With automated testing, drones can cover the desired area more quickly than a manual test. Additionally, the test data is sent to a server at Nokia Networks’ Global Delivery Center so that it can be processed and reported to the engineers in the field, who then improve network performance in a timely fashion.
In October, Sentera, a UAS designer and manufacturer, brought its knowledge in acquisition and management of image-based data to the wireless industry.
Sentera, which initially worked with military systems, launched a mobile app and desktop client that provide the ability to analyze image data and a record of the location, date, time, and asset type. Photos are then presented in a searchable map view. Sentera began developing the product after it was approached by a tower company that had an abundance of images of its towers but no way to organize them and fully utilize them.
In September 32 Advisors spun off a drone-as-a-service company, Measure, and then in December it hired Chris Moccia, former CEO for Solusia Air, to serve as vice president of infrastructure.
“Measure’s Drone as a Service model allows cellular tower owners and operators to use drones for inspections without making a heavy capital investment,” said Measure CEO Brandon Torres Declet. “Chris’s skill set combines his experience as a businessman and industry expert with a keen ability to navigate emerging technology markets. With his leadership, Measure will help companies with vertical infrastructure realize the benefit of incorporating drones into their operations.”
Government regulators and industry associations engaged with the drone industry. The National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) established a UAS committee, which will monitor the trends and regulatory environment associated with UAS technologies. Additionally, it will make recommendations to NATE members on best practices concerning UAS integration. NATE has also participate in the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) meetings on Unmanned Aerial Systems that have been held in Washington, D.C.