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Communication Towers: Commonly Encountered Hazards

Workers who maintain or install communication towers have to climb towers with the aid of ladders and other support structures. Their workplace is about 100 feet in the air in excess of 2000 feet and they have to work in all weather conditions.

Needless to say, workers who work on communication towers are constantly exposed to a number of hazards. Some of the common ones include:

  • Electrocution
  • Falls
  • Falling object hazards
  • Equipment failure
  • Detrimental weather conditions
  • Structural failure of towers
  • Dangers associated with lifting heavy equipment

By far falls are the biggest hazards for communication tower workers, but they are far from being the only ones. Workers who are exposed to radiation and chemicals during operations can fall ill or be bedridden indefinitely or worse. While death and injuries are usually the result of structural failures, other hazards can also cause them.

For example, one of the most misunderstood hazards for communication tower workers is exposure to radio frequency (RF) radiation. This is common in towers that have multiple antennas that either receive or transmit these signals at varying frequencies.

Even if workers are not in contact with antennas, their proximity to them will still expose them to radiation levels that exceed safe levels of exposure. This is one of the main reasons why most communication towers have signs warning people about the hazards of radio frequency radiation.

Consistent exposure to RF radiation can lead to rapid heat buildup in the body. A microwave works the same way to cook food quickly. Now imagine that level of heat building up in the body. Since human skin and organs are made of delicate tissue, high RF levels can cause serious harm very quickly.

Even though our natural blood flow can reduce the damage by regulating our body temperature, it cannot only do so much. For example, it cannot protect the eyes and tests from damage since those organs lack the mechanism necessary to prevent heat buildup.

Long term exposure to RF radiation can also lead to the development of tumors as well as certain types of cancers.

Importance of safety and health programs

A comprehensive safety and health program can go a long way in reducing accidents and fatalities for tower workers. The plan should be compatible with all organizations that are involved in contracts.

The main elements of a health and safety plan should include the following:

  • Due diligence and accountability at every level – everyone in the organization should be held accountable for their safety and the safety of their team members.
  • Employee participation – all workers who are involved in the program should understand their responsibilities as per the training program.
  • Identification of common hazards – certain procedures should be maintained for the identification of hazards.
  • Leadership in management – managers should prove that they are dedicated when it comes to improving health and safety in the workplace.
  • Controlling and preventing hazards – the safety plan should ensure that all necessary procedures are carried out. This includes tracking procedures and determining how well the controls are being used.

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