Safety Tower Climbers

Tower Tales: Volume 1

January 18, 2019

Tower climbers get to experience all kinds of issues along our travels. Often times, it’s the headache of working around years of substandard installs done on a site that we are expected to make perfect.

We all have a few “Best Days” that stand out above the rest, these are the days that remind us what we’re made of. In Volume 1 of Tower Tales, we’ve gathered a few stories shared with us from those in the field about some of the days on the job that really stand out.

Joey from New Mexico

I remember working a remote mountain top site with limited access. We had to arrange rides up and down the mountain with the ranger station, and the materials had to be brought in by chopper. We were also told to bring emergency provisions for at least three days – we thought that was funny at first.

The first day on the job was a huge success, we made it up the mountain and landed all the materials and steel safely on the ground without issues from the helicopter. Day two was going great at first, the weather wasn’t the clear sunny day like the previous, but we were trucking along. About midday, snow began to fall, big white fluffy flakes the size of quarters. This was long before weather apps, so our only resource was visual and what info we could get from the ranger station. The visual was obviously limited and the ranger station reported only flurries throughout the day, but nothing substantial. A couple hours pass, the snow was stacking up, and the winds picked up to 45 plus MPH. Unable to hang steel in these conditions, I started making arrangements to get off the mountain while the crew cleaned up. That’s when the emergency provisions we thought were funny at first were no longer funny. The ranger said he couldn’t make it up the mountain due to ice, even though we had snow, he was below the freeze line and the bottom half of the mountain was an ice cube. The helicopter was not equipped for passenger transport so it looked like we were camping for the night. With the recent news about our situation, I expected the crew to shut it down and take it easy for the night, I was mistaken. They didn’t want to waste any time, so we continued to prep and mod the angles for the entire job till the wee hours of the morning.

After a power nap we resumed work and we were able to finish two days ahead of schedule. The big boss was ecstatic, this was an important job that needed to go flawlessly to secure future work for this customer. The boss offered me a very large bonus for this job, I accepted it but had him split it evenly between all the guys. Two out of the three guys still work for me today, that’s what makes this my best day!!

Chris & Jason from Texas

We were sent out to inspect and maintenance an AM broadcast tower. This was contract work for the property/tower management company. Our job was to inspect the tower and guy wires, then scrape and paint, grease the guy wires, apply coal tar at the fan heads, and the regular closeout photos. The tower & wires didn’t look like they had been serviced in 20 years. We inspected the guy anchors and came to the conclusion the tower would support the climb.

We slowly made our way up taking notes and photos of the countless areas of severe corrosion. Someone had painted a nice thick coat over the brittle, crumbling rust. In some spots, the paint was the only thing there, you could peel it off and see a big hole. We made it to the 400’ mark when we saw it. The northernmost leg was 75% missing right above the flange plate weld. You could see the gap get bigger and smaller as the wind blew. We still had another 200’ to inspect but we weren’t going any higher, I’m regretting going this far now. We slowly made our way down and safely put our feet back on terra firma, we were beyond thankful to be on the ground. I made the call and informed the customer of the situation, they told us the tower was fine and to proceed with the scope of work. Naturally we refused, packed up and left. A week later we heard on the news that a round of thunderstorms brought down the tower. Had we proceeded with the scope of work like they wanted, we probably wouldn’t be here today.

We talk about this day often, had it been a few years earlier when we thought we were invincible we would have done it… It would have been the last thing we ever did.

Kenneth from California

The years have been good to me but I would have to say my best day was back in 2001.

I was recently hired as a project manager by a friend who owned a busy company. Him and I went out to check on a special project we had a sub crew building. It was a massive 3‐legged stealth tower that eventually would have a fake water tank put on top to make it “incognito” to the public. Upon our arrival, I notice the sub crew just happened to be a company I had done some work for in the past – and they still hadn’t paid me (3 years later). Long story, behind that – but the short version is, they had shut down the old company and started operating under a different name, failing to pay a dozen or so contractors like me. Anyhow, part of my new job was to make sure this special project gets built right. We had all the time in the world since they didn’t plan on adding the carrier’s antennas and lines till the next year, that was music to my ears. I watched the sub crew stack the bottom 140’ of this beast the wrong way for the entire day. The tower was truly vertical, with no taper, so you had to make sure the flanges were pointing the right way so the giant 30’ stealth panels would go on later, they had all of them upside down.

At the end of the long 13‐hour day of stacking they began to clean up for the day, and that’s when I informed the owner that they had to take it all down and put it back up the right way. After about 30 minutes of arguing and countless swear words he realized the mistake and asked me why I didn’t say something earlier when I noticed it. Then his partner reminded him that I was one of the contractors that they didn’t pay… He looked at the ground, shook his head, and started swearing as loud as he could. I may not have gotten my measly $1,900 for the trouble tickets I fixed but I certainly felt compensated after that. That was a pretty good day in my book.

Share Your Story

If you would like to share your story or you have a topic that you would like to add to the next “Tower Tales” please email us at TCofA@Yahoo.com .

Jeremy Sinclair

Jeremy has been in the industry for over 24 years and is the founder of Tower Climbers of America. TCofA started as a small Yahoo group of around 16 members and has now grown to boast over 22,000 members around the globe. Learn More

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