In 1999, Cliff Kirk was working for a company that sold safety equipment and was tasked with finding safety equipment for climbers. Kirk saw there was very little safety equipment being made for the tower industry, but dealt with the issue and found out he liked working in that niche. In 2003, he started TES Inc. in Knoxville, TN., distributing a long list of fall protection, rescue and access equipment for the tower industry.

Climbing supplies distributed by TES include full body harnesses, connectors, headlamps, rope, cable grabs, fall arrest lanyards, eye protection, hard hats and more. They also work with manufacturers on designing products that their clients want. TES has a store at its Knoxville location as well as online purchases.

Manufacturing company Petzl is TES’ technical partner, and Petzl’s products are used in training. TES also trains new and experienced climbers in ascent and descent, work positioning, anchor building and the understanding of rescue specific to communication towers. The training includes classroom and practical training at TES or on the client’s property. Clients come from tower companies, governments and those who just want to climb for sport. The courses are physically demanding.

“We do a lot with rescue and the rescue equipment,” said Kirk, who is president at TES. “We come in from a rope access angle and the training is more about fall prevention and work positioning. We teach you not to fall – that’s a big difference.”

All trainers at TES are Society of Professional Rope Access technicians, and all OSHA standards are used.

“We have a Department of Labor approved-apprenticeship program for tower technicians and veterans can use the GI Bill to help pay for training,” Kirk said. “We’re working with five colleges now to get people to go into college and execute their training.”