NATE: Playing a vital role advancing safety in the wireless industry
The National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) is the global leader in safety, standards and education for the wireless telecommunications and broadcast industries. NATE is dedicated to ensuring that its 735-plus member companies and all industry stakeholders have the necessary resources to be safe and productive. The work that the tower construction and maintenance industry carries out on a daily basis allows for enjoyment of modern conveniences and ensures citizens in rural and urban regions can access communication services in an efficient, timely and convenient manner. This deployment of broadband and wireless infrastructure technologies plays an invaluable role in the nation’s economic well-being and global competitiveness, and for upgrading vital services such as utility and public safety communication networks.
This robust growth cycle in the industry has not been without its challenges, however. Constructing and maintaining communications networks has resulted in accidents and, tragically, some fatalities. NATE is playing a leading role on the Wireless Industry Safety Task Force to achieve sustainable improvements in the industry and help solve the safety, quality and workforce development challenges that confront the industry.
The Wireless Industry Safety Task Force consists of top safety and operations executives representing wireless carriers, tower owners, OEMs, turnkey/construction management firms and NATE.
The task force includes Alcatel-Lucent, American Tower, AT&T, Bechtel, Black & Veatch, Crown Castle, Ericsson, General Dynamics, Goodman Networks, Jacobs, MasTec Network Solutions, Motorola Solutions, National Association of Tower Erectors, Nexius, Nokia Solutions and Networks, SAI Communications, Samsung, SBA Communications Inc., Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Velocitel, Verizon Wireless and WesTower Communications.
To organize the task force in an efficient manner, participants have been assigned to a Skills-Based Training Subcommittee, a Standardization Requirements Subcommittee, a Governance Working Group and a Manufacturing and Engineering Solutions Working Group.
The Skills-Based Training Subcommittee recently unveiled a comprehensive Skills-Based Training Competencies Matrix resource that the group has been working on for more than four months. The Skills-Based Training Competencies Matrix is a document that outlines the minimum competencies and skills required for five categories of workers in the industry: 1) Helper/Ground Worker; 2) Ground Technician; 3) Elevated Tower Technician I; 4) Elevated Tower Technician II; 5) Lead/Foreman. This skills-based resource will ultimately serve as the impetus for the development of a national training standard, complete with industry-embraced guidelines and curriculum. The standards and mandatory training that are developed will create a smarter, safer, more capable tower technician who is able to provide the wireless owner with the safe and quality build-outs necessary to meet today’s demand.
The Standardization Requirements Subcommittee is working toward creating a standardized checklist of requirements that can be mutually agreed upon, adopted, implemented and adhered to by companies in the industry. The ultimate goal of this subcommittee is to raise the bar and standardize safety expectations on critical issues involving contractor evaluation. Issues such as pre-hiring practices, employee screening, insurance coverage, substance abuse testing, fall protection, training verification and many others are being scrutinized as a result of the work of this subcommittee.
One of the most common questions in the industry revolves around how to regulate the training that emerges from this effort and how will that be required? The Governance Working Group is exploring the possibility of developing a nationally recognized third-party certification firm to administer or govern the subject matter created by the training. The training certifications for each individual will be reviewed and verified with documentation and updated accordingly as the technician goes through each level of certification. Our vision is that all of the tower industry workforce will ultimately be trained and certified to this standard.
A Manufacturing and Engineering Solutions Working Group has also been established to explore manufacturing and engineering solutions to some of the safety hazards confronting the workforce. This working group is engaging with industry manufacturers and engineers to discuss what advancements can be made to fall protection equipment and tower structures to help make the industry safer for the challenges elevated workers are confronted with on a daily basis. For example, the working group is consulting with equipment manufacturers to challenge them to develop a “smart hook” or “smart lanyard” automated device that would remove the human error element and ensure that a technician is properly tied-off on the tower at all times when working on towers at elevated heights.
Another major initiative of the Wireless Industry Safety Task Force is the 100% Tie-Off 24/7 Awareness Campaign. One of the early issues identified as a result of the task force’s collaborative efforts is the fact that many of the tower-site accidents that compromise safety involve situations where the tower technician was not properly tied-off to the structure. In order to educate industry stakeholders, the 100% Tie-Off 24/7 Awareness Campaign involves a comprehensive grassroots approach that involves the unveiling of public service announcements, paid advertising in industry and mainstream publications, earned media efforts, a social media component and collaboration with state wireless associations.
NATE continues to play a leading role in the development of industry standards. The association’s A10.48 Committee continues to work on writing the ANSI A10.48 Tower Safety Standard, which, upon completion, will be the first tower safety standard that encompasses the entire tower erection, service and maintenance industry. Completing the A10.48 Standard is a top priority of the association, and we are committed to providing the resources and support necessary to make it happen.
Through NATE’s legislative and regulatory efforts, the association continues to work diligently with officials from OSHA, the FCC, members of Congress, Congressional committee staff and other federal and state government entities in order to advance the mission of safety, standards and education in the policy and regulatory arenas.
NATE and OSHA have the same goals in terms of advocating for a safe workplace and ensuring that every worker is able to return home safely each evening. Most recently, several NATE representatives participated in an authorized climber training course with several OSHA officials in order to help educate OSHA on the unique nature and challenges associated with the tower construction and maintenance industry.
The association continues to host NATE UNITE, the premier conference and exposition in the wireless infrastructure industry. NATE UNITE 2015, our 20th anniversary trade show, will take place in Orlando, Fla. from Feb. 23-26, 2015. NATE UNITE 2015 is the place to interact with key decision-makers in the broadcast and telecommunications tower industry.
NATE will continue to work relentlessly to help create a culture of safety and professionalism in the industry so every tower industry worker can return home safely each and every night.
Safety first, safety always.