Tower Group Stresses Safety First

NATE covers training and insurance education at its annual convention


Tower collapses and near misses make the headlines. The tower industry hopes to change all that by focusing all its efforts on a decidedly less flashy subject.

"Safety, safety, safety" is the mantra pounded into the minds of tower climbers and construction companies across the industry, and it's exactly what attendees to the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) show will hear at their ninth annual convention.

More than 1,500 people are expected to attend this year's NATE show, held Feb. 24-27 in Nashville, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.

The association's focus on safety has had quite an impact on the industry, seen by some as a rough-and-tumble crowd of risk-taking cowboys. Now, NATE hopes, that image has morphed into one of organized, safety-stringent professionals-even as its members continue to take the challenge of constructing 300-foot-tall towers in stride.


The tower industry began to come into its own around 1995, said Craig Snyder, co-founder of NATE and president of Sioux Falls Tower & Communications, based in Sioux Falls., S.D.

"There wasn't a huge demand for services [before 1995], but we were seeing it start to grow with a new interest in cellular, PCS and digital TV services," he said.

The industry got itself organized through NATE, and last year cemented its focus on safety by forging a new partnership with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The two are working together to further shore up safety issues across the tower construction industry, said Patrick Howey, administrator for NATE, with a session at this year's conference offering insight into the partnership, he said.

At the 2004 convention, the tower industry will delve into another controversial topic, the issue of legal liability. A common problem tower companies face is pinpointing just who is liable if something should go awry during a tower construction project.

"The language in some of these contracts is truly difficult to understand," Howey said. "In some cases the contracts are written so tightly that insurance carriers simply won't cover an installation, and some of our members feel trapped [by the situation]."

A session entitled "Contractual Risk Transfer: Are You Protected?" will explain how companies can go about getting the insurance coverage they need.

"Ours is truly a high-risk industry," Snyder said. "So we want to talk about how companies can use the right contractual language and best present their case."

Other sessions will include "RF Hazard Protection Equipment" and "Insurance Basics and Concepts," which will be a nuts-and-bolts walk-through of how the insurance process works for the tower industry.

One panel will discuss fall protection; another will discuss the soon-to-be-released guidelines called the "NATE Climber Training Standard," which standardize tower climbing training. Of particular importance, Snyder said, will be a discussion on gin pole standards.

"Up to this point, there hasn't been a lot of definition and understanding of the load variances of gin poles," he said. "We'll discuss how loads are applied and how this information can protect lives and property."

Another session will examine requirements for servicing older towers and building towers for digital television antennas. The conference will also include a tradeshow exhibition. For more information, see

Susan Ashworth

Susan Ashworth is the former editor of TV Technology. In addition to her work covering the broadcast television industry, she has served as editor of two housing finance magazines and written about topics as varied as education, radio, chess, music and sports. Outside of her life as a writer, she recently served as president of a local nonprofit organization supporting girls in baseball.