Feedback (Part 1 of 2) from “Will the tower industry Police Itself?”

This is from my post “Will the tower industry Police Itself?”

Comment: Wow
I AGREE so much of what you say is truth (I am a 11 yr veteran of the industry) and it is passion that has kept me in. I believe if the big 3, at&t etc, would see that you can not replace an injured worker with anyone just to get system on-line so it will get punched. Please I have trained my share, how many still, in few but some and they are DAMN GOOD HANDS, but the pay doesn’t match. Keep up the good work here.

Response: Thanks, I often hear how many customers are more concerned about 2 things during an injury and that is schedules and reputation. You know what they rarely worry about? Lawsuits, even though they do lawyer up most people working there do want the injured to get better, most managers know that the courts set a precedent when AT&T was sued and the judge determined that because AT&T put that layer of turf vendors in between them and the climber, they could not be held liable. However, now OSHA would like to see the contracts so they can investigate farther. For all of you that think I am making it up, go HERE and HERE and HERE. Listen, when there is an accident and you see a friend get hurt, or a family member, it suddenly changes your perspective. No one wants anyone to get hurt. Look at TIRAP setting a model to follow and NATE working on training standards. All tower crews have to do is follow their instruction. Most do, most companies have a great culture stressing safety along with quality work. Like is said, safety is not cheap, so when the customer demands low prices but continue the demand for unrealistic schedules, the problem continues. The way I see it, safety is in the hands of the of the crew owners and customer, they will set the standards for their contractors but continually asking for the certifications for everyone on their jobs as well as doing safety audits randomly. No tower crew really likes the customer checking up on them but that is the only way I see things changing.

Go to theIWCE conferenceand see me! I will be on the“Tower Safety and Regulatory Compliance”panel on March 17th, 2015.

Comment: Points I’d like to make:
    1- Get the charlatans out of the industry. The last few years have seen a huge growth and everyone wants a piece of the pie. This includes TURFERS that have no frigging clue as what they signed on for and/or give  $#@% about the GCs actually hanging their ass out in the wind dealing with these idiots.
   2- Company owners, foreman, leads right down to the FNG need to make safety the daily priority.
   3- There is no substitute for OJT. Just like there is no substitute for climber/rescue training and practice. Safety isn’t just a classroom study. There is class/instruction work and hands on. Every day there is something different. Training people to pay attention and identify issues is a daily thing (it never stops).
    4- Aptitude is something you have or don’t have. It cannot be trained, instructed or expected of someone who does not possess it. Identifying this early is the only way to be proficient and safe in this industry.
More points:
TIRAP was good intentions but ran like just any other class, getting a D- is still passing. That goes back to aptitude, and attitude (many people want to be a medical doctors and in some countries can be, even though you wouldn’t want them working on you). People have to be built for this work mentally and physically.
The Govt should set basic standards and then step off. Are we adults of babies? If you’re the latter this is the WRONG place for you. If you’re the former act like it. This is a business and hopefully your name. Treat it right, you can only sell your soul once.
Unions, like communism, has worn out it’s usefulness and welcome. Now it’s just a tick sucking off the system and occasionally killing someone off.
This is not  business for whiners, con men or swindlers. This is a business for real men and women. Honesty and integrity are paramount. Really everything starts with those 2 things. Sadly those are the 2 things missing from the majority of society and in this business it’s the difference between life and death. Yes there are plenty of companies out there without those qualities but they will burn down or out in the short-term. And in the process make life more difficult for the rest.
The large companies (MASTEC included) have NOT paid GCs on projects for the last 3 years pretty regularly so I have to disagree with you on that one.
Thanks for reading and I hope I didn’t make anyone dizzy with the jumping around a bit. Some times my rants go that way.
All I really want to say is that this industry is one of those that there isn’t room for rationalizing. It is do it or don’t do it. Half assed will get someone killed>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Response: You make several good points, this is a tough business. It is full of swindlers and con men, mostly because even though it’s a small business we don’t call out these people in a public forum because of lawsuits. So what do we do? Word of mouth within the industry. I follow a few deployment pages and postings only to see that there are climbers and businesses that just screw over others. Yes, it is something that happens to the companies. Some people work for a company and walk with all they can carry and then there are companies that hire crews and just don’t pay them. I have been on both sides and it really sucks when it happens. However, you push forward and do what you can do. You worry about taking care of business, your business the best you can. You build in any protection you can. You talk to your competition about safety, companies, and who pays and who won’t. We really need to communicate in this industry, after all, that’s what we do, we build communication systems, right?

You also brought up about big companies, it just seems that when companies get larger, their priorities change, I don’t know why but that is the perception. They need to realize that they will get a bad reputation in the industry, but most don’t care because there are so many crews looking for work. So many tower crews are out there looking for work, willing to take risks for the sake of getting paid by a customer.

As far as unions, I think that they offer a way to organize the climbers to be trained properly. Unions still are out there and still offer value. I feel differently about them because I know many tower climbers in the IBEW and they seem to be well-trained and do good work.

To respond to your original points:

  1. You have clueless and uncaring people in any industry, However, look at all the good people in this industry, I really believe it balances out. I talk to people like Dr Bridgette Hester, Kathy Brand, Wally Reardon, and so many more that really make the industry look good.
  2. There are outstanding company owners out there, watch the TIRAP Workshop and you will see Dave Anthony of Shenandoah Tower Service who runs his company with one of the best safety cultures in the business, building safety first attitude from the top down. Unfortunately there are probably 10 companies to every one like Dave’s that don’t stress anything but the schedule. Money first for some people. It reminds me of something someone told me, (sorry for getting sentimental) the greatest things in life are free, even though we chase money life was given to us and love is often found, not bought.
  3. OJT is the most valuable training you can get, but it really helps to have experienced and upstanding people you work with. You may or may not like them but if they are really good at their job and safety, then you will learn good habits. Unfortunately many young men learn bad habits or need to rely on their intuition to figure out what to do with no experience, sometimes that can be good or bad.
  4. I agree, aptitude is a gift that really helps in this business.

Comment from my blog I thought would be great to share:

Wade,
I think that you have asked the single most important question in all of telecommunications, actually. I spent more than 15 years working aloft in every scenario imaginable from new builds and installations, to having to do a tower survey just to make sure the tower is safe for 2 men to climb – and some failed that and I refused to let my people work on them. In my career aloft, we did not even have a near miss. Riding the headache ball was not allowed! Hanging off an attachment was not allowed. Gin poles of all sizes were not used if they were in poor repair. Some of these practices were “very inconvenient” and probably cost my company money, but I never had to plan a hospital visit schedule, or worse, ever in my outdoor career.
Telecom is not the only area this problem exists. In many areas, you just have to stand under a bridge for a short while before you decide that where you are standing is unsafe. I think that in the case of the bridge, a worker on the bridge cannot be responsible for the maintenance of the structure before performing work on some part of it. If that were the case, repairing the guard rail might be a multi-million dollar project.
I heartily support the training efforts, and apprenticeship programs for all areas of telecommunications. When workers in our industry are well-trained, costs actually come down because the work is accomplished in less time, and the quality is always better, and for the owner of the infrastructure, maintenance costs are generally lower. When infrastructure is in poor shape, then risk is higher, and costs for maintenance and installation is higher.
Just my two cents!
Congratulations on your blog!

Response:Thank you! It’s funny you say that because I take so much heat for asking these questions. So many people don’t want to ask these questions, it is business as usual. Some people get defensive, like I am accusing them of something. I just want everyone out there to be smart, be safe, and pay attention to what they are doing. I want them all to come home alive. I really want the industry to thrive, with no deaths and minimal injuries. There is a ton of work coming up that will require creative solutions for deployment, we need to build up the industry and be prepared.

Be smart, be safe, and pay attention! Follow the plan but don’t be afraid to adapt, improvise, and overcome!

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Go to theIWCE conferenceand see me! I will be on the“Tower Safety and Regulatory Compliance”panel on March 17th, 2015. Don’t you need an excuse to go to the Las Vegas convention center. I will share the stage with Cory Crenshaw, Charles Ryan,Dr. Denis Boulais, and Robert Johnson. Our moderator will be J. Sharpe Smith of AGL Magazine. Here is a list of exhibitors that will be there. I will be speaking and I may need some safety gear, email me at wade4wireless@gmail.com so we can talk! Make sure you sign up for this forum running 1:00PM to 4:30PM because let’s face it, these are issues you deal with on every job!If you want to talk after the conference, let me know.

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