NATE works to expand ‘culture of safety’
National Association of Tower Erectors, or NATE, Executive Director Patrick Howey said this week that the organization is working to develop a “culture of safety” throughout the tower industry that includes both tower workers and tower owners. As part of the effort, the organization reissued its checklist of recommended procedures designed to make tower workers safer.
Tower climbers have been criticized over the years for failing to adhere to safety procedures, often operating with a “cowboy” mentality, while tower owners have been under scrutiny for hiring inexperienced or unqualified climbers as a way of cutting costs.
“To drive safety, we have to drive the dedication of everybody that’s involved, whether that’s the guy who climbs the tower or the CEO who signs the contracts to have the guy work on the tower,” Howey said.
Howey added that the tower industry’s safety picture is brightening, but conceded that creating such a culture is an ongoing process.
“I look at all of the resources that are available to operate safely and I think that’s having an impact,” he said. “But who’s getting hired to work on these towers is one of the important reasons why we want to work more closely with the owners and operators, to make sure that the companies that are going out there to do the work are properly equipped and properly trained to operate safely.”
Howey added that there’s commercial value in putting workers on tower who are qualified to do the work. That also will lessen an owner’s exposure to costly litigation should a tower fail to function properly or should an accident occur.
The checklist is just one component of a comprehensive effort that also includes safety posters and videos. In addition, NATE entered into an agreement with OSHA about a year ago through which NATE member companies voluntarily agree to ensure that their employees are trained properly and that they have a safety program in place. Other requirements include having an inspector on site to ensure that workers are adhering to safety procedures, and conducting voluntary site audits to identify potential hazards.
“We’re just coming up on the end of our first year, but I really feel like it’s making a big difference in the industry,” Howey said.
NATE also developed a training standard to help climbers “know what they need to know before they set foot on that tower,” Howey said. Typically, NATE makes its materials available only to members but felt so strongly about the standard that it is making the information available industry-wide, he said.
“If you want people to go home safely at the end of the day, then you need to include everybody.”