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Tag Archives: PCIA The Wireless Infrastructure Association

FCC Comm. Clyburn Cites ‘Special Responsibility’ For Tower Worker Safety

By Don Bishop —

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FCC Comm. Clyburn (photo: Don Bishop)

April 30, 2015 — Wireless networks are expanding at an amazing rate, and the critical information needs of the United States are being met like never before, FCC Comm. Mignon Clyburn told an audience at the Wireless Infrastructure Show in Hollywood, Florida, yesterday. Yet she said that we must never lose sight of those who build those networks and the dangers that they face. To that end, she spoke of the need to bring the tower worker fatality rate down to zero and the possible regulation to make that happen.

The commissioner said bringing the rate to zero will require 100 per cent of the effort from 100 percent of wireless industry participants to build the necessary safety systems. “From wireless companies, service providers and tower companies, we need 100 percent of the power and 100 percent of the tools to achieve 100 percent safety,” she said. “New and innovative tools for identifying specific risks need to be further developed.”

The commissioner said the workers often are young people, sometimes relatively inexperienced. Others may not be represented by unions, she said, “so collectively, we have a special responsibility when it comes to their safety. According to some reports, the fatality rate for tower climbers is as high as 10 times the rate of the general construction industry.”

Clyburn said she is aware of the toll tower work has taken, particularly in her home state of South Carolina. In June 2007, a 30-year-old tower technician fell 140 feet from a tower in Bluffton. In the same month, a technician fell 170 feet from a tower in Summerville. “One tower worker fatality is one too many,” she said. “Our goal should be that no more families should have to suffer.”

One possible remedy, according to Clyburn, is a sign-before-you-climb approach that assesses climber-specific and job-specific risks at each job site in advance and on the day of the job before any worker even climbs a tower. She said it may be necessary to rethink the safety provision in the contracts between wireless companies and service vendors.

“All regulatory options should be on the table,” she said. “Let us continue to have conversations about how these and other initiatives can further our common objectives of building, deploying and continuing to provide the critical infrastructure our nation needs.”

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Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine.

 

 

OSHA Calls for Help in Protecting Tower Workers

By J. Sharpe Smith —

April 16, 2015 — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is asking the tower industry for information about safety hazards in tower construction and maintenance to assist the agency in determining what measures are needed to prevent worker injuries and fatalities.

Schlekeway

“NATE has worked closely with OSHA over the years educating them on the unique nuances of this industry,” said Todd Schlekeway, executive director, National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE). “It is not general construction. There are so many challenges to constructing and maintaining communications towers. This is another opportunity for the industry to continue that process of education.”

PCIA — the Wireless Infrastructure Association has made workforce safety a priority and has engaged with the Department of Labor and Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program in working to find ways to ensure that workers are better equipped to perform under safe conditions.

“We want to help create the wireless workforce of the future with the best training available to those who are deploying wireless infrastructure. PCIA welcomes the opportunity to work with OSHA and other government leaders on this critical effort,” said Jonathan Adelstein, PCIA president and CEO in a prepared statement

Adelstein

Adelstein

OSHA welcomed input from tower workers, wireless carriers, engineering and construction management firms, tower owners, and tower construction and maintenance companies on the causes of employee injuries and fatalities, and to share best practices used by workers and employers in the industry to address these hazards.

“This is an early part of their process to gather information on the industry to determine whether they want to move forward with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” Schlekeway said. “We encourage our membership to review the RFI and respond to some of the specific questions that they feel strongly about.”

In particular, the RFI asks about the significant hazards that tower climbers face the job and what circumstances contribute to the hazards. The RFI asks tower climbers about what they do to remain safe on the job, and what additional safety-related practices they would like to see implemented. OSHA also asks about the specific safety rules and work practices that are provided to tower climbers and who gives them that information.

 

Schlekeway welcomed OSHA’s effort in the name of tower safety, but he wants to make sure the government knows the efforts the industry is making to address issues brought up in the RFI.

“We will make sure that everyone knows what the Wireless Industry Safety Task Force is working on and the direction of the National Wireless Safety Alliance in terms of assessment certification,” he said.

The deadline for submitting comments is 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. Interested parties may submit comments and additional materials electronically at www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Comments may also be mailed or faxed.

Industry Loses Another Tower Climber

J. Sharpe Smith —

Jan. 8, 2015 — As 2014 drew to a close, we were saddened to hear of another tower climber fatality, the 12th in so many months. Allen Lee Cotton, a 44-year-old tower climber, fell to his death from a cell tower in the middle of December in Greeneville, South Carolina.

He was working with two other climbers for Central USA Wireless, Cincinnati, at the time, but neither saw the incident occur. OSHA is investigating the incident.

Earlier in December, firefighters performed a high-angle rescue on a tower climber who had slipped off a platform and was hanging by his safety harness 150 feet off the ground. The rescue took 30 minutes to perform.

This year brought an amazing amount of attention to the safety of tower workers. It all began with a letter to the industry in February from OSHA through NATE to tower service companies, imploring the tower industry to increase its vigilance concerning safety. The agency also promised increased penalties for companies that knowingly ignored the safety of their climbers. In September, OSHA would make good on that threat with fining Wireless Horizon $134,400 for two willful and four serious safety violations for an incident that killed two cell tower workers in 2013.

The importance of tower climber safety increased in visibility at the FCC, as well. The agency examined ways to prevent future deaths of cell tower workers at the day-long Workshop on Tower Climber Safety and Injury Prevention on Oct. 15 in Washington, D.C.

Later in October, the FCC teamed with the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration to launch an apprenticeship program for telecommunications tower technicians, the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP), which partners the government and industry stakeholders to promote safety and education in the telecommunications workforce.

TIRAP will work in concert with ongoing safety efforts, such as one by the National Association of Tower Erectors’ Wireless Industry Safety Taskforce (WIST), formed in 2013 to develop a standard for best practices for sustainable safety training.

Also in October, the Department of Labor announced a $3.25 million grant to create a college-based template for wireless infrastructure job training at Virginia State University, Petersburg, Virginia. The grant, which was written in concert with PCIA – the Wireless Infrastructure Association, allow VSU to strengthen a new program aimed at building a network of colleges to train students for high-skilled careers in wireless infrastructure, and the association will assist in managing the program.

Warriors 4 Wireless was launched to develop training and certification programs with educational institutions, such as Aiken Technical College, and industry partners, such as Grey Wolves Telecom, aimed at employing veterans of the nation’s military.

The focus was not only on the preventing tragedies. A major effort was commenced to support families whose loved ones become casualties while climbing. The Tower Industry Family Support Charitable Foundation was launched in September by the wireless industry with the lead of the National Association Tower Erectors through a joint donation of $400,000 from ClearTalk Wireless, a flat-rate wireless service provider, and the law firm of Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth.

But even with well-meaning letters, speeches and committee meetings, cell towers proved to be no less dangerous in 2014. Tragedy met young and old alike. For example, Joel Metz, a 28-year-old father of four, was decapitated on July 2, in a Metz, while replacing a boom at a tower site in Harrison County, Kentucky. Thomas Lucas, 49, fell 80 feet on Aug. 10, while painting a tower in Jo Daviess County, Illinois. Chad Louis Weller, 21, was working on communications equipment located atop of the 180-foot water tower, March 19, in Pasadena, Maryland. Just to name a few. The dozen climbers that died was just one fewer than the year before.

In the New Year, expect the industry, and AGL Media Group, to redouble our efforts to promote tower safety. More people joined the conversation on tower safety in 2014 than ever before, but it is up to the industry to follow through with safety training standards and increased educational options to ensure competent tower climbers. But, most important, the industry cannot tolerate businesses that use low-cost, poorly trained tower workers.

J. Sharpe Smith is the editor of AGL Link and AGL Small Cell Link.

 

FCC Harmonizes Tower Lighting Regs with FAA

By J. Sharpe Smith —

August 19, 2014 — The FCC has streamlined its Part 17 rules governing the construction, marking, and lighting of antenna structures in an attempt to reduce regulatory burdens and enhance compliance, while still preventing antenna structure from being hazards to air navigation, according to a Report and Order released Aug. 8. The industry applauded the Commission’s efforts.

“The Commission delivered real results on its process reform efforts by removing redundant regulatory requirements that increase compliance costs, which will allow investment to focus on broadband buildout,” Jonathan Adelstein, the president and CEO of PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association, said in a prepared release. “The FCC’s Order will harmonize its regulations with the FAA to eliminate unnecessary rules, thereby encouraging the adoption of advanced technologies.”

Under the old rules, any antenna structure that required notification of the FAA also had to be registered with the FCC, which sometimes resulted in overlapping oversight. To streamline the process, the FCC said it was harmonizing the regulatory process, reducing the ambiguity of having to comply with two sets of rules.

“Today’s Order will have a real impact on wireless broadband deployment,” Adelstein said. “For example, PCIA’s members have spent tens of millions of dollars on lighting inspections since 2007, despite the adoption and availability of continuous monitoring technology. By reforming lighting inspection requirements, the FCC will encourage more wireless providers to re-channel unnecessary compliance expenditures to more beneficial uses, such as infrastructure upgrades and rural deployment.”

FAA Advisory Circulars

The FCC revised its rules to eliminate any reference to older FAA Advisory Circulars. Instead, structure owners are required to comply with the FAA’s “no hazard” determination and associated study for a structure in establishing painting and lighting specifications.
“Eliminating specific references to FAA publications will clarify the lighting and marking obligations of antenna structure owners should any FAA Advisory Circulars (be outdated or) change in the future,” the Commission wrote.

The FCC will not require existing antenna structures to comply with new lighting and marking requirements, deferring instead to the FAA for future regulation.
“We find that, on balance, the costs associated with retroactive application of new lighting and marking specifications outweigh any limited corresponding benefit,” the Commission wrote.
Noting that conservation groups had urged the FCC to retroactively impose prohibitions against the use of certain steady burning lights to safeguard migrating birds, the Commission responded that while it understood their concerns, rule changes would have to wait until the FAA updates its Advisory Circulars to reflect the FAA 2012 Conspicuity Study.

The FCC clarified rules that require a new registration prior to making alterations to be in concert with the FAA rules that require a new aeronautical study and determination of “no hazard” when a change of one foot or more in height or one second or greater in location is proposed.

“We defer to the FAA’s expertise on these matters in finding that these requirements are sufficient to help ensure air safety. On balance, we conclude that harmonizing our standards for when changes in height or location require supplemental notice with the FAA’s requirement for when a new study is required is in the public interest, as it provides greater clarity to structure owners without harming air safety,” the FCC wrote.

The Commission harmonized its notification rules with FAA rules that require owners to file supplemental notice within five days of the time that a construction or alteration of a structure reaches its greatest height, a proposed construction or alteration is abandoned, or a construction or alteration is dismantled or destroyed.

Other topics contained in the Report and Order include voluntary antenna structure registration, posting of antenna structure registration, provision of antenna structure registration to tenants, maintenance of marking and lighting, inspection of structure lights and associated control equipment, notification of extinguishment or improper functioning of lights, lighting malfunction repair timelines, record keeping requirements, and maintenance of painting.

PCIA, Warriors 4 Wireless Developing Training Programs

PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association – and Warriors 4 Wireless (W4W) are developing technical training programs to help solve the growing workforce needs of wireless infrastructure companies. The organizations are currently writing a grant to the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) for funding for a program at Virginia State University, PCIA CEO Jonathan Adelstein said during his keynote address at the AGL Conference, held June 19 in Washington, D.C.

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Adelstein

“One of the things that I am really excited about is building a wireless work force so that we can deploy 4G and 5G and beyond,” Adelstein said. “Job training is crucial to unlocking the growth of potentially 30,000 jobs in the wireless industry, according to a study performed by PCIA.  There are 10,000 jobs in our industry that we are having trouble filling right now, particularly tower climbers.”

Last Fall, W4W CEO Kelley Dunne asked PCIA to be the lead industry association representative to help recruit veterans for jobs in the wireless industry. Adelstein subsequently joined the organization’s seven-member advisory board.

“We are a precision industry. It takes precision training to get the job done right,” Adelstein said. “There are not enough people to get the job done right. Turf vendor members are saying that their biggest challenge is the labor market.”

The initiative was formally launched in Washington, D.C. last November in an event at the White House hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Other companies that have committed to the effort include Mastec, Cisco, American Tower and T-Mobile.

Aiken Technical College has partnered with W4W to become its educational provider of tower installation training in the southeastern United States.

“We jumped in with both feet doing everything we can to make the program at Aiken work. We have identified an additional school, Virginia State University, to [assist W4W],” Adelstein said.

Adelstein said students in the VSU program will not be prepared for temporary jobs, but for lifelong careers in the wireless industry.

“So we are developing a complete curriculum – from tower climbing and installing DAS and small cells to RF design and engineering,” Adelstein said.

In order get the ball rolling at VSU, PCIA is applying for a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor for VSU, which is due in two weeks. Adelstein asked the audience to provide the association with support letters that discuss workforce needs of companies that will hire graduates of the program.

“We need your involvement,” Adelstein said. “We want to prove to the DoL that we have a pipeline of companies that will take these graduates.”  The W4W program has an aggressive goal of placing more than 5,000 veterans in wireless technician positions by 2015. In the future, Adelstein hopes to expand the technical training program to schools nationwide to try to meet that goal.