Posts Tagged ‘climbing’

Fall protection at 1776 feet: One World Trade Center

Friday, July 26th, 2013

Acrohphobes, take note: this post is about working at extreme heights!

We spotted a jaw dropping video in our Twitter feed the other day — an engineer climbing the spire at the top of the One World Trade Center, a dizzying 1,776 feet. It’s a promotional video for a fall protection firm called Rigid Lifelines. It led us to more dramatic video footage of the tower completion and an interesting case history behind the safety engineering challenge that the tower construction posed, which is depicted in a dedicated website, Safe at 1776.

“A symbolic reference to the year America signed the Declaration of Independence. With its spire attached, the new World Trade Center became the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and the third tallest building in the world. The 104-story super-scraper stands on the northwest corner of the 16-acre World Trade Center site, occupying the location of what used to be the original 6 World Trade Center.”

“To ensure the safety of workers who will perform routine maintenance atop the massive tower, builders, engineers, and the Port Authority partnered with Rigid Lifelines to design and supply 1,975 linear feet of total fall protection track, and the highest self-retracting lanyards in an occupied building. Rigid Lifelines designed two systems for the One World Trade Center building–a horizontal system for the rings and a vertical system for the spire. Each system was specifically designed to ensure that workers have 100 percent fall protection from the moment they leave the top floor to the moment they touch the flashing beacon light.”


We’re heartened to see this commitment to worker safety – see our prior entry You Think Your Job is Tough, which includes footage of a worker “free climbing” a 1,768 foot Antenna Tower. And on a related note, The high price for fast phones: Cell tower deaths, a Frontline and Pro Publica investigative video about cell tower worker deaths in a small industry with a death rate that is about 10 times the rate of construction. Accountability is hindered by the complex web of subcontractors on these jobs, allowing large network sponsors to deflect responsibility for fatalities.

These prior posts may also may be of interest:


The high price for fast phones: Cell tower deaths

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

The boom in cell phones has spawned a huge demand for the building and maintenance of radio towers and that demand accelerated with the introduction of iPhones. The good news was that work proliferated – but under brutal, highly aggressive schedules. Now, with carriers gearing up for 4G networks, the anticipated building boom raises alarm in many seasoned workers – who see a proliferation of less trained, less experienced workers, working under more pressure for less pay – a recipe that points to the potential for more fatalities.

Frontline and Pro Publica focus on cell tower worker deaths, a small industry with a death rate that is about 10 times the rate of construction. Free climbing – climbing completely untethered without any safety gear – was involved in about half the deaths. (See our prior post with a gut-wrenching free climbing video clip: You think your job is tough? It remains one of this blog’s most visited posts.)

Tower work is carried out by a complex web of subcontractors – an arrangement that makes good sense on many levels, but that allows large carriers to deflect responsibility for on-the-job work practices – and for any workplace deaths. These networks are like like the Russian nesting dolls: layer after layer of progressively smaller employers. Tower owners are carriers like AT&T that hire firms such as Bechtel and General Dynamics to manage and complete tower projects. The industry jargon for these firms is “turf vendors.” The turf vendors then hire contracting firms, who in turn hire subcontractors. The end result: less money, less experienced workers, less training, less focus on safety and more deaths. This layering makes OSHA enforcement almost impossible. The lowest rung on the ladder is the one responsible for safety – and enforcement becomes what some industry observers call a game of “whack a mole.” Safety experts say that the responsibility for safety has to lie up the line, probably with the turf vendors.

Contract work and subcontracting is the new normal. The old contract between the employer and the employee is fraying, the concept of lifetime employment is increasingly a quaint tale of yesteryear. How this new normal will play out in terms of employee safety and employee protections should be of great interest to workers as this pattern proliferates in other industries. Even aside from politics, one has to wonder if the very concepts of workers compensation and OSHA — and other worker protections — would come into existence in a fragmented work environment like the current one.

Additional articles from the series
Transcript of a live chat with reporters and project manager for the Tower Climber Protection project. We note that the project manager is Wally Reardon, who commented on our prior post, linked above.)
Jordan Barab discusses OSHA limitations
How Subcontracting Affects Worker Safety

You think your job is tough?

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Last week, we rocked and rolled you with a dramatic video of a cruise ship tossed in a storm, but for sheer fear factor, we think this video may top that one. Normally, we wouldn’t post another video so soon after that one, but we think this one may not stay up for long!

Note: the video we had posted was removed but a copy has been posted here:

Direct link: Climbing Up The Tallest Antenna Tower 1,768 feet

Once we caught our breath after the gut-churning visceral reaction to the clip, we had two thoughts: Massive respect for the jobs that infrastructure workers do to keep our lights on, our computers running, and our phones working, and absolute horror at the “free climbing” concept. The narrator says that OSHA rules really allow for this, but that doesn’t sound right. We’d be interested in comments from safety professionals.

Here’s what we found from OSHA: “Tower climbing remains the most dangerous job in America. The majority of fatalities are the result of climbers not being tied off to a safe anchorage point at all times or relying upon faulty personal protection equipment. Many fatalities have occurred during the erection, retrofitting or dismantling of a tower. “Tie or Die!” has become synonymous with the requirement for 100 percent fall protection.”

Health Wonk Review and other noteworthy news briefs

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

It’s Health Wonk review week, and Minna Jung serves up the March Madness of both the basketball court and the health care reform process in this week’s Health Wonk Review. Visit this week’s post at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s blog The Users’ Guide to the Health Reform Galaxy.
Employer trends

  • Laura Petrecca of USA Today writes that employers are increasingly using technology to track and monitor employees. They do so for a variety of reasons, including monitoring to ensure productivity; to ensure that trade secrets are protected, and to ensure maintenance of professional and lawsuit-proof workplaces. Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case that will explore privacy rights for employees when using employer-supplied devices. View some of the tech monitoring techniques that are being used.
  • NPR has been running a series on work-life balance and the increasing number of employers who are turning to flexible work schedules. You can read more about it at HR Web Cafe: Work-Life Balance and Flex Work.
  • Employee compensation costs – Private industry employers spent an average of $27.42 per hour worked for total employee compensation in December 2009 (PDF), according to a report issued last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wages and salaries accounted for 70.8% of these costs, while benefits accounted for 29.2%. Of the benefits, 8.2% were for the cost of legally mandated benefits.

CT crackdown – Connecticut employers take note – Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is planning a crackdown on workers that are misclassified as independent contractors. “Among the commission’s recommendations: increase the penalty from $300 per violation to $300 a day per violation, strengthen criminal sanctions against misclassification and jointly investigate misclassification complaints with other state agencies.”
Immigrant workers – In light of a recent Iowa Supreme Court ruling in a case involving a nonresident alien, Roberto Ceniceros posts about immigrant workers and benefit complexities. To stay current on other related issues, we refer you to Peter Rousmaniere’s Working Immigrants.
Toxic chemicalsThe Environment News Service writes that the Obama administration is giving mixed signals on right-to-know for toxic chemicals. On the one hand, to increase transparency, the EPA is providing free web access to the Toxic Substances Control Act Chemical Substance Inventory. This is the first time that employers will have access to thousands of industrial chemicals in the agency’s database. But in a move that seems at odds with the administration’s stated commitment to transparency, OSHA is proposing a reduction in the hazard warning information that chemical manufacturers must provide to workers, customers and other users. OSHA denies that it is weakening protections, and according to the article, claims that it is “merely trying to conform with global labeling rules and that manufacturers often disagree with the cancer hazard evaluations and other advisory information.”
Medical marijuana – We suspect we’ll be seeing more stories like this: Walmart fires Michigan man for using medical marijuana.The store fired 2008 “Associate of the Year” Joseph Casias when he failed a drug test. Casias has sinus cancer and a brain tumor and has an authorized medical marijuana card. He uses marijuana to control pain at night, but claims that he is never under the influence at work. (See our past posts on this topic: The current buzz on medical marijuana and the workplace and One toke over the line.)
Kemper runoff – Hard to believe that it’s been six years, but the Kemper runoff saga is nearing conclusion, according to Business Insurance. Some call this “one of the most successful runoffs in history,” but not all agree. Some are waiting for liquidation to see if they will fare better than the reported 25 cents to 50 cents on the dollar that claims are being settled at:

“A decision to wait for liquidation or settle beforehand should depend on a cost benefit analysis that includes evaluating whether state guaranty funds for workers compensation claims are likely to pay for the majority of a policyholder’s claims, several experts said.

Workers comp claims account for the largest portion of Kemper’s outstanding liabilities, totaling about $600 million, Ms. Veed said.

But some states have net-worth exclusions, which eliminate guaranty fund coverage for companies above certain net worth levels, which range from $10 million to $50 million depending on the state, several sources said.”