In 2010, a video was circulating that showed a “tower dawg” climbing without the use of any safety gear. This video was intended to show a first hand perspective of what a day as a tower climber is like. This video caused an outrage and panic, and has since been removed.
Free climbing is very dangerous, even for the most experienced climbers. Wireless Estimator has since created a “Wall of Shame,” which displays videos of those climbing without proper gear. This wall is designed to discourage the infamous free-climb. In 2006, eighteen people died from incidents on towers because of improper safety gear.
Toby Wheale of Glendale, AZ died in 2005 when he was dismantling a tower that was no longer being utilized in Illinois. The greatest insult to his family and friends was not in his death, but in the $750 fine that his employer was forced to pay. It is often said that the price of a human life can not be calculated, but if it could, it seems an insult that $750 would be the number.
Tower climbing is non-unionized and the death rate is 10x higher than the rate of deaths in the construction industry. Of the 100 people that died climbing towers between 2003-2011, half of these died between 2006-2008 when the iPhone demand increased the need for communication towers.
With nearly 300,000 towers, in the US alone, that are devoted to the sole purpose of ensuring people can call, text, take photos, tweet, update their status, and more, the need for tower climbers is only going to increase.
It should be primary concern of companies that hire tower climbers, to ensure safety of their employees. All too often rigorous demands and deadlines, stiff competition from other companies, coupled with seven day work weeks, leave safety on the back burner. This lack of emphasis on the value of human life and the risks involved in keeping communications going, is rarely thought about when the average person places their cell phone on the charger at night.
Much of the blame falls on the communication companies which contract out to the cheaper companies, which often ignore safety requirements. Even if a company wants to use proper safety regulations, one that doesn’t will be able to complete a job quicker and cheaper. The companies make the choice, but it is also up to the tower climbers themselves. If tower climbers, across the globe refused to work without safety gear, then it would become standard practice in the industry. Canada has mandatory safety regulations for their tower climber, because of these it is one of the safest places for a tower dawg to work.
In China, workers have been known to leap to their deaths over horrid working conditions. While conditions in the US are not as bad as some of the sweat shops located across the globe, there is always room for improvement. The only way to ultimately improve conditions is if those affected by them unite.