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For NATE, Safety Always Comes First

Association’s annual convention opens in San Antonio Monday

When you’re hundreds of feet in the air working on an exposed structure, attached merely by your hands and perhaps a cloth or metal hanger, there should be only a few things on your mind. The first, one hopes, is safety.

The National Association of Tower Erectors Annual Conference & Exposition serves the tower erection, service and maintenance industry. For the people who convene in San Antonio Feb. 6–9, safety is supposed to come first. Indeed, at least a third of the education sessions are devoted to tower safety, for managers as well as tower hands.


In late December, Nick Rouskey, president of Broadcast Services Tower and Antenna, a veteran tower worker, was rendered unconscious while working on a broadcast tower in Florida. According to local news accounts, the local fire department was dispatched when Rouskey couldn’t be contacted by a coworker at the tower base or by his wife, who was called to the scene by the coworker.

Rouskey apparently had been electrocuted while replacing tower beacon lights. It took local rescue workers five hours to get to him, determine he was dead and retrieve the body. They had no experience in such operations.

It seems obvious yet has to be said repeatedly that climbing and working on towers entails a number of hazardous possibilities. Taking that into account, NATE convention sessions range from a hands-on NATE-authorized tower climbing training course, to considerations involved with tower rescues and a look at RF-exposure safety factors on towers. Not surprisingly there are several OSHA-oriented sessions as well.

Craig Lekutis emphasizes the importance of a pre-bid ‘site walk’ in safety planning.

With Rouskey’s death in Florida freshly on the industry’s minds, Todd Horning, director of training for Safety One International, and Richard Perse, also of Safety One, will host “New Techniques for Performing a Remote Rescue on a Tower.” Horning said that they will be demonstrating “revolutionary rescue techniques using automated external defibrillators to dramatically increase chances of survival at heights in remote work areas.”

Todd Horning will co-host a discussion about using automated external defibrillators to perform remote rescues on towers.

Safety also starts before anyone gets on a tower or even before a tower is built. Craig Lekutis, president of, a tower safety, support and engineering website, will head a panel in “Utilizing the Site Walk to Ensure that All Contractors Incorporate Safety Into Their Proposals.”

“Our panel discussion will be highlighting the need for contractors to use the pre-bid site walk to ensure that when a crew arrives on site they are already prepared to have the equipment available to perform a safe project since every location will have unique situations that must be addressed.”

Lekutis will be joined by Eric Munsell of engineering and consultancy Black & Veatch; David Sams, director of risk management for SBA Communication Corp.; and Scot Sandefur, director of environmental health and safety for American Tower Corp. Lekutis noted another topic for the panel: “Four of the industry’s top safety executives will also be discussing the use and abuse of job site safety assessment forms.”

He is a founding director of NATE and a continuing supporter. “The wireless industry has a number of organizations providing conferences. However, their focus is primarily in areas that will benefit carriers and tower owners. NATE is the only trade group that has the wireless construction industry’s interest at heart, and their ever-increasing membership and attendance at their shows is clearly a result of that dedication.”


The NATE-approved training course, “NATE Authorized Climber Training Course,” conducted by Safety LMSystems, will take place all day on Feb. 9. It is limited to 50 participants and costs $145. Its description says: “The training will cover several topics including: regulations and standards, equipment use and inspection and components that make up a fall protection system.”

There will also be a 10-hour OSHA-certified training course spread across two days. It has a capacity of 100 and costs $60. (Some events required advance signup; check the website.)

If You Go
What:NATE 2012
When: Feb. 6–9
Where:Marriott Riverwalk and Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center
How Much:Members $259, Others $599 (on-site rate)

There are other OSHA-specific courses: “OSHA & Standards Specifications for Training” and “OSHA Mock Inspection,” to be conducted by Raul Carrillo, an OSHA safety and health compliance officer.

Tower hands do have other considerations beyond safety. Convention attendees also have sessions such as “Transmission Line and Antenna Testing,” “Weatherproofing the Connection,” “Helical Foundation Piles and Anchors for Towers” and “Concrete Placement Methods and Repair” for consideration of their time.

Management has its options as well. The tower industry has seen growth as the telecommunications industry expands in directions other than broadcasting while the wind energy industry has stimulated demand for tower construction and maintenance services. Sessions such as “Strategic Business Planning That Works” and “Where Did My Customers Go? Creating Loyal Customer Relationships” hit the standard business angle, while “How Do Regulations and Standards Work Together?” is more practice-minded, and “Fiber to the Antenna — Trends and Opportunities for the Tower Owner” is a technology trends session. It has a companion session for tower crews, “Fiber to the Antenna — Installation Best Practices for the Tower Hand.”

In addition to the educational sessions there will be a show floor with equipment manufacturers, service providers, tower companies and others exhibiting. The convention hosting the show is on a section of San Antonio’s famous River Walk.