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A New Spate of Deaths In the Wireless Industry

timothy posted about a year ago | from the tough-line-of-work dept.

AT&T 247

onehitwonder writes "The race to build out advanced cellphone networks in the U.S. has contributed to a spike in deaths among tower workers, making this one of the industry's deadliest years and drawing fresh scrutiny from federal regulators, according to The Wall Street Journal. At least 10 workers have died in falls from communication towers so far this year, and three more were seriously injured. The accidents, nine of which were related to cellphone network work, come during one of the biggest building booms in years, as Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile US Inc. ramp up major network upgrades in an attempt to catch up with Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc."

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So (4, Funny)

jkflying (2190798) | about a year ago | (#44643367)

Cellphones ARE deadly after all! /s

Re:So (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643525)

We've known that cell phones are deadly, the only debate was when some nuts thought that the mild additional EM radiation of an antenna by your ear would cause brain cancer.

Here's [youtube.com] my favorite non-injury example.

That's why you should use wired networks (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643381)

Faster _and_ less deadly.

Re:That's why you should use wired networks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643459)

No you asshole, satellites. Nobody ever fell off a satellite...

Re:That's why you should use wired networks (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643513)

People fall off roofs when they mount satellite dishes though.

Re:That's why you should use wired networks (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643693)

What about Hubble? I heard Hubble is dead.

Re:That's why you should use wired networks (4, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#44643867)

How many people have died crashing into a telephone pole?
I think more then 10.

Re:That's why you should use wired networks (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643993)

What's a telephone pole? Do you mean the poles that public telephones used to be mounted on? Or the poles that hold up the wires in third world countries where they don't put communication lines in the ground?

Re:That's why you should use wired networks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44644017)

Precisely! If we didn't have any of those dang telephone poles, so many innocent drunk drivers would be alive today!

Re:That's why you should use wired networks (2)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#44644479)

If those damned telephone poles would quit getting drunk and jumping into the middle of the road, it wouldn't be a problem.

Re:That's why you should use wired networks (2)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year ago | (#44644355)

How many people have died crashing into a telephone pole?
I think more then 10.

No need to bet. First Google search results show a report from NJ state gov't with the number 50 -60 deaths per year in that state alone.

We're from OSHA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643399)

and we're here to "help".

Re:We're from OSHA (5, Interesting)

The-Ixian (168184) | about a year ago | (#44643559)

From what I understand, the problem is that OSHA cannot easily enforce existing safety standards because of the way the business of Cell phone tower work is structured.
 
The parent company, say AT&T, hires a contracting house to oversee all tower related projects which, in turn, hires hundreds of small contractors, many of which are less than 10 employees, to do the actual tower climbing.
 
The small companies are often the lowest bidders and, as a result, operate with a very thin profit margin and cut corners on safety in order to maximize profit. Couple this with the heavy pressure to complete projects in a very fast time frame and you have a recipe for disaster that regulators cannot really get a handle on.
 
Sure, OSHA can shut down any number of the small contractors, but they will just be replaced. AT&T, at the same time, can pay lip service to safety all they want but their hands are clean since they can just point to the contracting agency they hired to oversee their towers.
 
Obviously, there needs to be some more political will to regulate things closer to the top of the chain, I just wonder how many people need to die in order to generate that will.

Re:We're from OSHA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643817)

Obviously, there needs to be some more political will to regulate things closer to the top of the chain, I just wonder how many people need to die in order to generate that will.

One, but they have to be important, or at least a media darling.

Re:We're from OSHA (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643881)

You're on the money, but it is worst than that.

These jobs used to be all in house (at AT&T and Verizon anyway). Too many people fell and died, and they paid out too much money. They laid off everyone doing this sort of work, and turned to outsourcers for the reasons you stated. Some of the contractors submitted proposals with references to safety standards and were told to take them out of the proposals, that was their problem and AT&T wanted to know nothing about it.

This problem is also wider than cell phone tower deaths. AT&T in particular outsources many of it's jobs to small contracting companies, making sure none of them are more than 10-20 people. Why? They don't pay overtime. They are hourly positions with no time and a half. The small contracting companies can't force that in their contracts with AT&T, but have to do what they are told if they want the business. Several have been sued by their employees and gone under. Mean time AT&T moves on to other contractors. It's effectively an easy way for AT&T to insure they never pay overtime to hourly workers by burning up small companies.

Re:We're from OSHA (4, Insightful)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#44644137)

Solution? Don't contract for AT&T. Can't survive otherwise? Maybe you shouldn't be in that business, then.

Re:We're from OSHA (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44644257)

Danger: "Magic of the market" thinking detected.

This is a bit like saying "Don't like Windows? Don't work with Microsoft". AKA, not an option in the vast majority of the business world.

To put it another way, you don't technically need a car. This is true on the face of it, but in reality, without a car you better live downtown if you want to not be late to work every day.

Re:We're from OSHA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44644513)

That would work if it weren't for the constant oversupply of labor. People get desperate.

Now if you want to make the social safety net so good that it's better than one of these jobs...

Re:We're from OSHA (1)

Princeofcups (150855) | about a year ago | (#44643915)

Obviously, there needs to be some more political will to regulate things closer to the top of the chain, I just wonder how many people need to die in order to generate that will.

But not having cheap disposable labor means less profit for the executives and board to hoard. The days of government taking care of the workers is well in the past.

Re:We're from OSHA (4, Informative)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about a year ago | (#44643987)

Pretty close. Actually, it's multi-tiered. AT&T lets a national contract, where the winning contractor takes 90% of the profit out of the contract and sub-lets 5 or six regional contracts, where those sub-contractors take 90% of the remaining profit, and sub-let dozens of sub-regional contracts, who take their 90%, and sub-let the actual work to these 10-man outfits, who can't afford enough gear or people to adequately and safely do the job. Then some free-market idiot like the GP comes along and blames the whole thing on the government. FRONTLINE [pbs.org] has done several stories and follow-ups on this phenomenon.

Re:We're from OSHA (1)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about a year ago | (#44644187)

Which is exactly what the article said...

Re:We're from OSHA (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643793)

How to scare a republican:

We're from the government and we're here to help.

How to get a republican to cream their pants:

We're from the DOD and we're here to help.

What the fudge.. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643441)

10 died this year, that's nothing. In the UK 3 people die each year testing if a 9v battery works on their tongue. 19 people have died in the last 3 years believing that Christmas decorations were chocolate.

It's not exactly a huge shockwave out of the 313 Million people in America.. wondering why this story even made it here.

Re:What the fudge.. (4, Insightful)

amiga3D (567632) | about a year ago | (#44643521)

Because every life is precious.

Re:What the fudge.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643727)

Yeah so we should have an outrage and do something every time someone does something stupid.

Most, if not all of these 10 deaths were because they hadn't taken proper care and precaution. I believe it's called Darwinism at it's best.

9V battery; in certain freak cases, the battery can make an almost direct connection to the nervous system where the nerves are close to the surface and the skin is wet, thus ionising the nerves so that they will not work correctly. Result is death.
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/07/28/the_odd_body_death_by_battery/

He adds: "It cannot be entirely excluded however. If a person is very ill, for example, has heart problems, or has a heart pacemaker that could be disrupted, and so on, they could possibly die from testing the battery in this way. But normally it wouldn't happen."

NORMALLY.. but then NORMALLY you don't die during this type of work either.

Re:What the fudge.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643781)

Because every life is precious.

Mine isn't. I'm a waste of human flesh.

Re:What the fudge.. (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about a year ago | (#44644173)

Because every life is precious.

Mine isn't. I'm a waste of human flesh.

You're an AC, so that's pretty much axiomatic.

Re:What the fudge.. (3, Funny)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#44643891)

Because every news article that gets a clickable add is precious.

FTFY

Re:What the fudge.. (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | about a year ago | (#44643537)

Care to explain how a 9V battery can kill someone, other than by trying to ingest it?

Re:What the fudge.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643581)

it whooshes your neurons.

Re:What the fudge.. (3, Funny)

qwijibo (101731) | about a year ago | (#44643607)

Probably gross stupidity. Could be people tried to swallow the 9V battery because it was tingly and it got lodged in their throat, or maybe they didn't understand the concept of a 9V battery and instead tested a 9mm handgun with their tongue. All things that have 9 in the name are the same, right? =)

Re:What the fudge.. (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about a year ago | (#44643621)

blood contact and getting current across the heart can do it (but in most cases your heart can be restarted)

the difference between a 9 volt source killing you and a 9K volt source killing you is how "crispy" your remains are

Re:What the fudge.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44644079)

blood contact and getting current across the heart can do it (but in most cases your heart can be restarted)

Given this discussion was about a 9V battery on your tongue, I think we need to have a long talk with you about basic human anatomy, RobertLTux.

By the way, remind me never to get lunch with you.

Re:What the fudge.. (1)

operagost (62405) | about a year ago | (#44644481)

There's no reason why putting the 9V across your tongue, nowhere near your heart, would kill you. I couldn't find a single instance on the internet of someone being killed or seriously injured in this way. I tested a lot of batteries this way as a kid-- and several were indeed quite live-- and was never injured.

Re:What the fudge.. (1)

compro01 (777531) | about a year ago | (#44643667)

A 9V battery can (briefly) supply several amps of current if shorted. Even just a small fraction of that going along the wrong path can wreck your heart rhythm.

Re:What the fudge.. (2)

operagost (62405) | about a year ago | (#44644501)

That would be a problem if you tested it by wetting your chest and placing the leads across your heart, I guess.

Re:What the fudge.. (3, Insightful)

aitikin (909209) | about a year ago | (#44643733)

FTA:

OSHA has estimated there are roughly 10,000 workers in the U.S. communication tower industry. Ten deaths may not seem like a huge number, but it is enough proportionally to rank the industry among the deadliest in the country.

So every one in one thousand dies on the job. I'd say that's a pretty high mortality rate for the US.

Re:What the fudge.. (3, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year ago | (#44644397)

It's not exactly a huge shockwave out of the 313 Million people in America.. wondering why this story even made it here.

Because a person shouldn't have to take completely unnecessary risks in order to make a living, all so that a major publicly traded company can save a few bucks.

Tie off (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643451)

Rule 1. If you are climbing anything, you fucking tie off.

Re:Tie off (4, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | about a year ago | (#44643715)

You seem pretty secure on your high horse.

Re:Tie off (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643859)

That's because he's tied off.

Re:Tie off (1)

LordEntropy444 (3027507) | about a year ago | (#44643981)

That's because he's tied off.

And the Wichita lineman, is still on the line... Wait , maybe not!

Re:Tie off (3, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#44643925)

I am willing to bet even with all the rules and regulations in the world, there will be 10 deaths a year due to 10 guys who think they are super men, and doesn't need that safety equipment and will do their job without it, no matter how much it is enforced.

Re:Tie off (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44644275)

I'd be more interested to know if any of these deaths were from safety equipment malfunction or misuse. The article seems to imply all of the deaths were from non-use. You can train someone to use equipment but it's up to the worker to use it. If it's malfunction and in some cases of misuse, the company training these people need to revisit what they're training.

Frontline covered this (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643461)

This isn't anything new. If you have worked in the industry, you know about it. The pressure and competition from cell providers to lower the cost of erecting and maintaining towers has pushed the safety margins to very thin levels. Guys climb with gear far beyond their service life and are asked to work lots of hours.

Frontline covered this last summer, I think it provides a good summary if you don't know about the topic:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/cell-tower-deaths/ [pbs.org]

Re:Frontline covered this (3, Informative)

amiga3D (567632) | about a year ago | (#44643579)

I agree that happens but in my experience the number one problem is people get complacent. I've come close a couple of times to falling off stands and both times it was simply complacency. You do something long enough and you loose respect for how quickly you can get hurt or die. I've seen people do some of the stupidest stuff too. Many are just plain careless. If anything I'm shocked the number isn't higher.

Re:Frontline covered this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44644101)

When PBS showed the Frontline on cell tower deaths in my area, it was advertised as cell tower deaths and listed as such in the guide; but then aired as the 30 min of cell tower deaths immediately followed by a Frontline documentary on another facet of the financial meltdown that I was little aware:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/mf-global-six-billion-dollar-bet/

Weird, since the listings for PBS are usually spot on and all the Frontlines I have watched were an hour long.

Re:Frontline covered this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44644245)

Slashdot has been showering me with mod points for some reason. Posting anonymously again. :/

> If you have worked in the industry, you know about it.

As I write this, I just sent a three man screw to replace the beacons on a 700' tower for one of our 100,000 watt FMs here in Birmingham. I told them, "I want the work done quickly and correctly, but I will not kill anyone for it." Before I send anyone up on my towers, I personally check to make sure they know what they're doing and that they have good equipment. I've never lost anyone, not even when we were strengthening a 1300' tower up in Cullman, AL about 10 years ago (that's EXTREMELY dangerous work, as you probably know -- you remove the old horizontals, then replace them with new, stronger ones; one slip up and down she comes).

(And for the curious, replacing the three old incandescent flashing beacons with new LED units is costing us about $4,000 in labor. The lights were another $5800.)

OSHA is useless. It boils down to money: make it to where it costs these wireless companies more to have someone get hurt or killed on a tower, and they'll suddenly become very interested in safety. :)

I once called the owner of the company that does most of our work and flatly told him that one of his guys wasn't going to climb my tower because he was acting spaced and weird. Turns out the guy's wife had left him and he was messed up in the head. I didn't want his death on my conscience.

(If you work for a tower company, you know that this is a big problem, too. Spouses complain -- and cheat -- when their husbands are gone for weeks at a time. That does NOT help their mental attitude when they're climbing straight up several hundred feet.)

I really don't get it (3, Insightful)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about a year ago | (#44643465)

How do you forget to clip on? Even after a decade working in the job how could you possibly forget? It's like forgetting to wait for the cross signal and just walking out into traffic.

Re:I really don't get it (2)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about a year ago | (#44643543)

It's like forgetting to wait for the cross signal and just walking out into traffic.

And you think people don't do that too?

Re:I really don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643657)

Maybe they were texting?

Re:I really don't get it (5, Insightful)

compro01 (777531) | about a year ago | (#44643705)

How do you forget to clip on?.

"working 12- or 16-hour days"
"haven't taken days off in weeks"

Exhaustion results in errors.

Re:I really don't get it (1)

EvanED (569694) | about a year ago | (#44643751)

...and you think people don't do that? :-)

Anyway, it's not a new phenomenon in some sense. A lot of rock climbing gyms have systems called auto-belays, which are systems that let a single person just walk up to the wall, clip a carabiner from it into their harness, and climb.

And people forget to do that. They just go up to the wall, don't clip in, climb to the top of the wall, let go as if they were on autobelay, and then get to take a medevac ride.

A gym somewhat near me has posters around the gym with x-rays of someone who did that there saying "be sure that you clip in!!!"

Re:I really don't get it (3, Informative)

the_other_chewey (1119125) | about a year ago | (#44643911)

How do you forget to clip on? Even after a decade working in the job how could you possibly forget? It's like forgetting to wait for the cross signal and just walking out into traffic.

Apparently, it is accepted not to clip on at all [youtube.com] .

Re:I really don't get it (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#44643943)

Simple,
After many decades of doing your job, your fear of heights goes down to near 0. So you just don't think of it as a major thing to remember or forget.
I sometimes forget my glasses, or something else I do every day, just because I don't rate it as a high priority thing.

Re:I really don't get it (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44644125)

How do you forget to clip on?

People don't forget this ... usually they decide it's too inconvenient and don't bother. People just get complacent over time.

But, I believe there are some exceptions where you don't need to be clipped in because there are other risks involved. Something about moving yourself and your tools making situations in which people are allowed to not be clipped in. And I'm pretty sure this kind of tower might be one of those.

Re:I really don't get it (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#44644377)

I know an injection molding machine operator that likes to change heater band fuses with the heaters still on (220Volts).

He is an _idiot_, but it's not like he doesn't know not to do that. It's not like we haven't yelled at him/threatened to fire him. If I see that again he's gone and he knows it.

I asked his kids to talk to him about it. Maybe they will get through to him. All that means is he will find something else stupid to do.

Lots of dangerous things really have low odds of killing you. Doesn't mean you should play.

And the carriers duck responsibility... (4, Interesting)

jddj (1085169) | about a year ago | (#44643487)

A Frontline documentary [pbs.org] last year noted that tower work is done by small contracting companies that allow the big carriers to duck all responsibility, while pushing the firms to build so fast that safety gets shortcutted. Worth watching.

Re:And the carriers duck responsibility... (1)

Threni (635302) | about a year ago | (#44643991)

They're not ducking responsibility, they're simply not responsible.

Re:And the carriers duck responsibility... (1)

operagost (62405) | about a year ago | (#44644527)

Correct. I, myself, think it's immoral if you absolutely know your sub is compromising safety in order to meet your requirements. But if you submit a proposal and they accept, it's expected that they should deliver. It's their responsibility to determine what they can handle.

Re:And the carriers duck responsibility... (1)

cdrudge (68377) | about a year ago | (#44644271)

Around here most, but not all, of the towers aren't even owned by the cell companies. They are owned by private companies and then are leased to the cell companies. While the need for the non-cellco owned tower is created by the cell phone company, they don't operate the tower, they didn't finance it, so how exactly are they responsible for it?

Spate. Who knew? (1)

Doug Otto (2821601) | about a year ago | (#44643495)

So apparently spate == 10.

Good to know!

More gov't intrusion then (0, Troll)

roman_mir (125474) | about a year ago | (#44643501)

Like I said earlier, [slashdot.org] as long as the silent or vocal majority wants government to regulate, tax, subsidise, print, there won't be anything left for real justice, real equality and real freedom.

Workers don't want to die, companies don't want to have a hand in more deaths, companies want to keep their workers, who are apparently in high demand. However all of the existing regulations, taxes, etc., all that burden prevents companies from growing, from hiring.

If government was interested in actually lowering unemployment, it would stop the regulations, taxes, inflation and subsidies, redistribution, welfare state. Instead there will be more regulations, what do you think that would do?

It would raise the costs obviously, but it would also further limit employment, it wouldn't provide more jobs with those companies, who are building this infrastructure, it will prevent jobs from appearing. I mean this is infrastructure, the kind of 'shovel ready' work that government officials cheer for supposedly.

In reality of-course they are only interested in government jobs, nothing else, government jobs are welfare, not real jobs.

Why am I talking about this?

Here, quoting:

"OSHA is taking a close look into factors that may be responsible for this tragic increase in fatalities and, based on those findings, we will initiate additional measures to improve safety in the cell-tower industry," said David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.

OSHA has estimated there are roughly 10,000 workers in the U.S. communication tower industry. Ten deaths may not seem like a huge number, but it is enough proportionally to rank the industry among the deadliest in the country.

In 2008, citing data from 2006 when 18 tower workers died, OSHA said tower climbing was "the most dangerous job in America," ranking it above occupations such as fishing and logging. Fatalities had declined since then, with only one death recorded last year.

The rise in tower fatalities comes as preliminary data from OSHA show overall workplace fatalities are down in the nine months that ended in June.

Construction managers say there is so much work this year that many crews are working around the clock and haven't taken days off in weeks. One project manager said crews are working 12- or 16-hour days and, when they get tired, forget to clip on safety lines or clip them on improperly.

You think a welfare state, taxing, redistribution, regulating helps or prevents employment? If the companies need more workers because the ones on the job are overworked, why do you think companies don't hire more people? It's the costs associated with employing more people. It's not just salaries, it's all the costs added not by any market forces but only by government meddling, this of-course also factors in the cost of the economy that is hurting from inflation, which prevents real capital formation and real economy from restarting.

Re:More gov't intrusion then (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44644235)

Like I said earlier, as long as the silent or vocal majority wants government to regulate, tax, subsidise, print, there won't be anything left for real justice, real equality and real freedom.

Indeed, comrade! Only when the proletariat rise up and overthrow the greedy capitalist masters will we see REAL justice, REAL equality, and REAL freedom!

Workers don't want to die, companies don't want to have a hand in more deaths, companies want to keep their workers, who are apparently in high demand.

Preach on comrade! How DARE companies don't want to keep their workers. How DARE they want to make profits instead. I agree, comrade, in order for us to change things we need the power of the people to band together, into a collective as in collectivism. Only this time, it'll be REAL collectivism and it's going to work!

liar, liar, pantalones del fuego (1)

fascismforthepeople (2805977) | about a year ago | (#44644295)

as long as the silent or vocal majority wants government to regulate, tax, subsidise, print, there won't be anything left for real justice, real equality and real freedom.

That statement makes no sense in regards to the topic of worker deaths. You just put one of your religious mantras at the top so you can come back later and say "that's what I already said" as if it somehow relates.

Workers don't want to die

How would you know? You've shown many times before that you don't give a shit if workers live or die. If you had an employee who died working for you, I expect you'd throw the body in your neighbor's trash and disavow ever having known him as anything else could get in the way of your god-given right to pursue profit.

companies don't want to have a hand in more deaths

The only thing you are concerned about is profit. If losing an employee costs a company money, then you care. Otherwise you don't. Trying to pretend otherwise is a futile effort, roman.

However all of the existing regulations, taxes, etc., all that burden prevents companies from growing, from hiring.

They haven't had much trouble replacing the dead guys and bringing more guys in as well. In other words as usual your statement doesn't hold water.

If government was interested in actually lowering unemployment

Why do you give a shit if the government wants lower unemployment? You have said dozens of times here that you support higher unemployment. You're trying to play both sides here to get your karma back out of the shitter.

Stop karma-whoring, roman. It doesn't look any better on you than it does on anyone else. Just try using direct and non-offensive statements to voice your opinion and your fellow cult members (there are plenty of them here on slashdot, even if we exclude your sock puppets) will bring your karma back up for you over time. If you instead insist on lies and insults you will continue to drive away the people who would otherwise chorus back your beliefs.

In other words, you can get your karma back, you just need to be kind to both those who want and those who do not want fascism for the people.

Acrophobia? Don't watch. (5, Informative)

drerwk (695572) | about a year ago | (#44643523)

I'm ok till 1:40.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWxOx2eSqdo [youtube.com] Free climbing is allowed by OSHA rules - per comments around 2:00.

Re:Acrophobia? Don't watch. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44644083)

I'm ok till 1:40. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWxOx2eSqdo [youtube.com] Free climbing is allowed by OSHA rules - per comments around 2:00.

Don't be silly. Of course it doesn't [safetynewsalert.com] .

Safety harness... (5, Interesting)

dywolf (2673597) | about a year ago | (#44643529)

...there for a reason.

From TFA: "Constantly attaching and reattaching a safety harness as climbers move about the tower can cut into speed." and "One project manager said crews are working 12- or 16-hour days and, when they get tired, forget to clip on safety lines or clip them on improperly."

So then the important question is whether the company is inducing this, or are the workers bringing on themselves? What I mean is, what are the comapnies policies? Are they good policies? Are they being ignored by workers trying to get more hours (for a bigger paycheck)? Do the companies even adress such things as maximum hours worked for fear of fatigue/safety? Is there pressure from the company to work more hours with fewer people?

I bring up the workers cause at my company there are people who wouldn't hesitate to work 16 hours days for the bigger check, and have actively fought agaisnt hiring more people because it would cut into their overtime as it is. luckily fatigue here isnt really going to be fatal; just cuts into profits.

Personally, if it's my life on the line, I got no interest in meeting the big guy this early in my existence. My debts arent so bad that I need to risk my life to pay them off. And when I interviewed for a job working on wind turbines (that I ended up turning down the offer for when it came) one of my first questions was about their safety policies, along the lines of the questions i posed above.

Re:Safety harness... (1)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about a year ago | (#44643583)

When it comes to something like this the workers are ultimately responsible. If your boss was pressuring you so much that you felt like not tying off was the best solution then you're an idiot. If your boss actually tells you not to tie off to save time, and you do it, then you're an idiot and he's a criminal.

Re:Safety harness... (1)

dywolf (2673597) | about a year ago | (#44643719)

my concern wasnt along those lines. as you say, thats blatantly illegal.i cant really think a company would be so stupid (but then ive been surprised before) as to pressure people to simply ignore best safety practices. the penalties are simply too huge.

my thinking was more along what the article was saying, where workers are working long hours and from fatigue either forgetting to clip on, or clipping on improperly. i mean i understand contracts and deadlines, and the realities therein. so im kinda thinking what are the companies policies about fatigue/hours worked? is there pressure to work longer hours? or are employees simply choosing themselves to work longer hours?

Re:Safety harness... (5, Interesting)

dbc (135354) | about a year ago | (#44644135)

I'm a ham, so I spend a lot of time climbing my own towers. (You couldn't pay me enough to do it for a living.) In my experience, when planning a job, I figure anything that takes one hour on the ground takes four hours in the air, at least for me. I also am careful to "do the same thing the same way every time". for example, when repositioning my work positioning belt, I use my right hand to unclip and move the left belt clip. Repeating a motion drives it into muscle memory so that mistakes are less likely to happen. I can tell you that I still goof once in a while (there are certain operations, like moving my positing belt, that I always double check.) Occasionally, I work with another man on the tower, which would be common for pros. The added distraction of having another person with you can cause you to forget steps. If you add some time pressure, its easy to forget to double check steps.

I've met pro tower riggers. I hire pros for work that is outside my comfort zone. They free climb much more than I would, but I'm a chicken and rig a 100% contact lifeline for most jobs. I suspect most accidents don't come from the free climbing phase of the work, because there your mind is focused on just climbing. I'd guess that accidents happen when you think you are solidly positioned with work belt, and actually are mis-rigged. I always lean into a work belt before letting go with my hands just to make sure there isn't any surprise slack. Sometimes there is....

So, nobody is perfect -- everybody forgets steps for things they've done many times. Tell me you've never started your coffee maker without coffee in it, at least once. That's a good rule to remember in the air, especially if there are any distractions or unusual circumstances. Time pressure works against doing all those double checks.

One tool I have that I've never seen a pro use is a temporary life line. I have a line that I rig to the top of the tower on the first trip up, and tie off at the bottom. A trailing clutch grip that follows me up, but requires being gripped to slide down is always attached. Once in that rig, I'm never disconnected from the tower. It's not good for work positioning, and if I ever slip I'm still a yo-yo swinging on a 3 foot string, so I'll collect a nice set of bruises from banging into the tower, but the trip to the ground will be deferred. The pros that have seen that usually comment to the effect that it must slow me down a lot. I. Don't. Care.

Re:Safety harness... (3, Insightful)

TheNastyInThePasty (2382648) | about a year ago | (#44643995)

Your boss will not tell you explicitly not to tie off. He'll tell you that if you don't work faster, they will fire you and find someone who can. Eventually you find people desperate enough for money that they're willing to risk life and limb for it.

Blaming the victim... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643827)

If they are desperate enough to risk their lives for overtime, maybe (just maybe) they are underpaid? Telcos have the money to build out safely and fast - they have been recording record profits for years. Blaming the workers is retarded.

And don't anyone even fucking try the anti-union argument. These guys make a very average salary -- close to the US median income, (which is hard to live on depending on where you live, and very hard to raise a family on).

The median salary for telecommunications equipment installers and repairers was $53,960, according to the BLS. Telecom line installers and repairers earned a median of $51,720.

Source: http://jobs.monster.com/v-telecommunications.aspx [monster.com]

Re:Blaming the victim... (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about a year ago | (#44644025)

Since when is 50k a year underpaid? And if 50k is the median, then half of all installers are making over that. For a job that does not require a college degree that is what most people consider an amazing salary. 50k is $26 an hour. If they get time and a half, overtime would be $39 an hour. Those extra 4 hours a day gets you an extra $150. Hell, I would work 16 hours a day too if it meant I made $350 for the whole day. 3 days would cover my apartment, cable, and utilities, leaving the other 17 days for that month as profit. Maybe (just maybe) they work a lot of overtime because they make so much money doing it. Where I live, in a major suburban area, a single person can live off half that. Living downtown takes about 30k. 50k a year might be hard to raise a family on single-income, but then you are assuming they are a single-income family. If you assume the workers spouse makes 30k (easily attainable for someone without a degree), that brings the family income up to 80k. You can easily raise a family off of that. I have a hard time buying your argument that these guys are underpaid.

Maths.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643533)

If there is an unprecedented amount of work being conducted on cell phone towers, the number of cell phone tower work accidents is going to rise proportionally. Right?

Yeah.... so.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643589)

That's what happens when you get rid of the long time well trained people to bring in some cheaper ones...

Bet all the companies this happened at... Have seen a high increase in employee turnover too.

Re:Yeah.... so.... (2)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about a year ago | (#44643717)

Bet all the companies this happened at... Have seen a high increase in employee turnover too.

But why the high turnover rate? If the company is fostering an unsafe working environment or forcing long days on people, high turnover rate might be a symptom rather than a cause.

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643653)

When more towers get built the likelihood of an accident increases.... yeah, how is this supposed to surprise anyone again? It's sad that anyone dies, but 10 people dying in an industry that is raising thousands of towers a year and maintaining tens of thousands of existing towers isn't exactly on the level of the 6,000 Chinese guys that died in coal mines last year.

Tell ya what: Once the NIMBY's win and no more towers get built, post a story about how worker deaths shoot through the roof then. It would actually be news at that point.

Whodathunkit... (1)

Bugler412 (2610815) | about a year ago | (#44643665)

An increase or boom in tower work results in a higher number of incidents during that work, no surprise. If the RATE of incidents per given amount of work changes then we have something to talk about.

Safety in NEVER a concern in construction (1)

realmolo (574068) | about a year ago | (#44643703)

This is just how it is. Any company that does any kind of "construction" ignore all the safety rules they can. Safety takes time, and costs money. Insurance will pay out on the off chance that someone gets hurt or killed.

The guys working these towers are almost certainly told by their bosses that they need to work faster, and if that means skipping safety measures, then they need to skip safety measures.

Re:Safety in NEVER a concern in construction (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#44644447)

Any company that does any kind of "construction" ignore all the safety rules they can.

My dad was an electrical lineman for 40 years, 15 or more of that constructing and stringing the high voltage towers, and I can tell you that those guys DO follow all the safety rules (I've seen them working). Of course, the IBEW is a pretty strong union. Maybe your construction friends should unionize?

Why federal regulators? (3, Interesting)

schwit1 (797399) | about a year ago | (#44643741)

Why not state regulators? Not everything is a federal responsibility.

GNU John Dearheart (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643747)

A man's not dead while his name is still spoken

roofing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643761)

going to guess they have a loooong way to go to catch the danger of being a roofer.

Construction is a dangerous profession, no real way around that.

It's a sad mess out there for the crews... (5, Insightful)

intensity (118733) | about a year ago | (#44643769)

As a former tower climber / tower climbing instructor and engineering manager in the wireless internet and cellular industries I can tell you that the big cellular companies do push hard to crank out new sites or upgrades to existing sites, but it's ultimately up to the climbers / installers and site foreman to insure that safety standards are followed and gear is inspected and used properly. It's hard to read about all these deaths and injuries knowing that - as with many things - these things can be avoided. When properly trained and equipped, tower climbing is remarkably safe, there are systems and backup systems to keep you on the tower should something go wrong. More often than not climbers will free climb or not utilize a 100% tie-off system, meaning even while moving, you're clipped in 100% of the time, even if it slows you down to move from one part of a tower to another. I was climbing up until September of last year and my climbing partner and I inspected everything we used and all the safety gear on the tower as we ascended. We also checked each other front and back to make sure we were not forgetting a strap or a ring or something before climbing.

One of the amazing things about the cellular industry that I noticed (I did cell networks for about 9 years all over the USA and 2 years of wireless business internet in the PacNW) is that the cell companies will outfit a million dollar site with radio gear and amplifiers and the latest and greatest connectivity they can get there, and then 6-12 months later come out and rip it all out and upgrade it again. They then resell the old gear to other providers here in the US or abroad, ie third world countries etc. This breakneck pace puts a lot of pressure on tower crews to crank out sites fast, adding to the safety issues. All to make a buck, the good ol' American way...

mo towers mo problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44643775)

Yes as the number of towers increases there is an increased probability of accidents... Why is the surprising?

contractors and subcontractors (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#44643851)

The gov needs to crack down on the over use of contractors and subcontractors. It goes to far in letting safety get pushed back and takes away worker rights. The worker should have the right to say I don't feel safe doing this with the tools that the contractor gives them and make so they can't say we will find some who will do it.

also get rid of pay per job that leads to rushing to fit more jobs into a day make it pay by hour. Also one thing that useing contractors and subcontractors is that some subcontractor can say our workers have safety training with out much to back it up.

In the cable tv area the same thing happens with background checks they say we do them but some times they do not to save cash.

Re:contractors and subcontractors (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about a year ago | (#44644433)

yes, the government should only use one contractor, there are absolutely no problems with that kind of policy.

Only fraction of deaths vs texting while driving (1)

JoeyRox (2711699) | about a year ago | (#44643927)

Texting while driving is deadly and likely not going to be helped much by recent states' laws that outlaw non-handsfree use of phones while driving. I wonder if there is a movement to force cellphone makers to disable texting when car-speed motions are detected...similar to how in-dash DVD players are disabled via the parking brake sensor.

Re:Only fraction of deaths vs texting while drivin (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about a year ago | (#44644407)

I wonder if there is a movement to force cellphone makers to disable texting when car-speed motions are detected...similar to how in-dash DVD players are disabled via the parking brake sensor.

That wouldn't fly, for several reasons.

  • Cell phone companies make way too much money off text messaging to embrace anything that slows down that profit
  • It would also prevent passengers from sending messages
  • Anything that increases the cost of a phone and doesn't add games, sounds, or other non-phone functionality will never gain acceptance on the market

That said, I agree that we have a huge problem with text messages being sent while driving. I support a zero tolerance policy that would take someone's license away for at least a year the first time they are caught, but of course the problem is enforcement more than anything - catching someone in the act is quite difficult. Unfortunately we need a different solution, and I'm not sure what that will be. Until then the rest of us have to watch out and hope that we don't get run down by some blithering fuckhead who can't wait until they park their failmobile shitwagen to send their goddamned message about their stupid cat to their BFF.

Re:Only fraction of deaths vs texting while drivin (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#44644521)

I agree that texting while driving is criminally stupid, but why shouldn't the passengers be allowed to text? I'm responsible and don't even answer the phone while driving, why should I have to pay for the equipment to stop me from doing something I'm not going to do anyway? You're for DUI interlocks on all cars on the road? Save the "anti-text" gear for those who've been ticketed a few times, or have caused a crash while texting.

industrial protection (1)

nimbius (983462) | about a year ago | (#44643949)

this is one of the reasons Linemen have a union...im certain at the boom era of electricity the problems were similar.

Time for an union? (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#44643961)

Electrical Utility workers are union and they don't have big safety issues or cowboy subs doing unsafe work.

could UAVs help with this?? (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about a year ago | (#44643967)

i don't think that there are UAVs in the right weight/price class to actually enable a worker to fall at less than 9.8mps^2 but couldn't a UAV fly the safety line to tie points a bit faster??

(also could be used when person A is doing something and Person B is running the checklist)

On the bright side (0)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year ago | (#44644077)

Hey, at least they weren't killed by terrorists. The DHS+TSA+NSA has succeeded!

Reminds me of a video (4, Interesting)

WillgasM (1646719) | about a year ago | (#44644147)

Reminds me of a YT vid [youtube.com] that still scares the shit out of me.

Declare war on cell towers! (2)

Daetrin (576516) | about a year ago | (#44644185)

Approximate odds of dying from occupational hazard as a tower worker in 2013 (so far): 10/10,000 = 0.001

Approximate odds of dying of terrorism as an American in 2001: 3000/300,000,000 = 0.00001

Screw OSHA involvement, we need to declare war on something right away and get the NSA spying on everyone in the telecommunications industry! (Okay, that last part may be redundant, but we need to find some way to give up some more freedoms to prove we're taking this seriously!)

Possibly related news (1)

FlatEric521 (1164027) | about a year ago | (#44644191)

Workers managed to set a cell tower on fire [baynews9.com] while welding in Florida. I do wonder if those 12-16 hour work days contributed to that mistake.

New ad in the works (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | about a year ago | (#44644493)

"Can you hear me now? Goooooddddddd!........"

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