By Benjamin Horvath
Inside Towers Special Correspondent
Not even halfway through the year the industry has seen a total of five fatalities. The most recent occurred June 9, when a 72-year-old amateur radio operator fell from a 50-foot radio tower in Mount Lemmon, AZ.
In response to these tragedies, leaders in the industry have come forward to reiterate the importance of safety practices and tips. CellSite Solutions President Carter Kramer speaking to RCR Wireless, provided several pieces of advice to amplify the message of climber safety across the industry.
Kramer wrote seven guidelines and safety measures climbers should take for each climb, emphasizing their importance by writing, “following these guidelines can mean the difference between life and death.”
Kramer emphasized the necessity for climbers to plan before each climb and to use proper safety equipment at all times. Not only should climbers use harnesses and straps, but they should also have a spotter on the ground that watches for any potential threats.
In order to decrease harmful exposure to RF radiation, Kramer wrote that climbers should wear a monitor that detects the strength of emitted signals that are potentially dangerous.
Carter also emphasized the need for climbers to maintain their climbing equipment, make sure the climber is hydrated prior to the climb and pay attention to signage on site that may signal a warning message.
“These safety measures are great suggestions, but they are much more than that,” Carter wrote. “Following these guidelines can mean the difference between life and death. While these recommendations are a great start, it is important that anyone who climbs a communications tower receives proper training guidance every step of the way.”
As a whole, the industry has taken steps in recent years to decrease the fatality rate of tower climbing, an occupation where slight mishaps can quickly turn into tragedies. For instance, in 2015, NATE officially founded the National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA), comprised of industry professionals that aim to standardize the climber certification process. NATE has also been extremely active through social media channels, releasing a series of safety videos this year as part of its #ClimberConnection campaign.
Recent technologies have also been developed to help reduce the number of climbs needed for technicians. For example, drone technology can capture tower photos that climbers would take from atop the tower and improvements in testing equipment, like that needed for difficult-to-reach RRHs, has enabled companies to reduce climbs.