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Posted: March 3, 2016 1:10 p.m.
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Tower climbing most dangerous job in America

Photo by John S. Hill/

Bruce Parker begins lowering John Mahoney below during an assisted rescue.

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Working on cellphone towers is “the deadliest job in the United States,” according to Occupational Outlook Quarterly, a trade publication.  It has been claimed that the tower-climbing industry experiences 10 times more death casualties than construction workers at large.  The head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration once called tower climbing “the most dangerous job in America.”
Civilian employees with the Airfield Division of the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, have the unenviable task of maintaining the receiver, transmitter and light towers on Hunter Army Airfield’s and Wright Army Airfield’s flight line.  These towers rang in height from 50 to 350 feet.
Tower climbers can be injured or killed by falling objects, structural collapses and equipment failures, electrical hazards and inclement weather.
“Because of the nature of work we perform, ATC (Air Traffic Control) Maintenance Branch takes safety and the management of risk very seriously,” said Bruce Parker, chief, ATC Maintenance Branch.  “Other installations contract out all ATC maintenance tower work.  We don’t here because doing so would cost the government additional funds to perform the same work we can do within our normal scope of our responsibilities.  It also saves time and reduces downtime of critical ATC communications.”
On Feb. 10-11, Parker and his staff conducted refresher training on safely scaling the towers.  They also trained on self-rescue and assisted rescue procedures.
Under the training and supervision of Jason McBride, a certified instructor with MUTI-Sabre Industries Telecom Services, a leading provider of infrastructure services to the telecom industry, each attendee had to conduct the tower scaling, self-rescue and assisted rescue tasks without any safety violations to pass the course.
The training was “more extensive” than the training we’ve had in the past,” said Ron Kolbe, electronic technician.  McBride introduced new safety equipment used for assisted rescues, which the ATC Maintenance Branch plans on purchasing.  
The training left me “highly confident” I can assist and safely bring to the ground a co-worker injured on a tower, added Kolbe, a 27-year veteran of antenna work that spans time with “60 to 70 climbs” in the Air Force, Air National Guard and civil service.
“All the individuals in the class were very comfortable with climbing and conducted themselves in a professional manner at all times,” McBride said.


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