Rooftop Antenna Construction Requires Qualified Contractors

Aug. 1, 2008
If you're considering leasing rooftop space to telecommunications companies—or if you already do—keep these checklists with you to ensure that rooftop antenna construction and maintenance goes smoothly

Rooftops no longer just provide shelter from the rain: Now, more than ever, they are a lucrative revenue source for building owners. Telecommunications companies are paying top dollar for available space on building rooftops to power the BlackBerrys, digital cable, satellite radio, cellular phones, wireless laptops, and other wireless and cellular devices that keep businesses and consumers plugged in every day.

Buildings of all heights in urban areas throughout the United States are being approached about leasing space for rooftop antenna construction. By building towers at multiple locations on low-, mid-, and high-rise sites across an urban area, telecommunications companies are saturating a greater space and providing customers maximum coverage.

This new, always-connected environment leaves building owners in prime position to capitalize on a new revenue source, but it can also open the door to greater liability. To reduce liability and ensure safety at all stages of rooftop antenna construction, building owners need to take an active role to guarantee that only qualified contractors build and maintain their rooftop structures.

In some cases, unqualified contractors have been hired to save time or money, but these practices must end. By leasing space on their properties, building owners should assume an interest in the people conducting work on-site. Putting in place a program to ensure the qualifications of those working building rooftops can save the pain, expense, and damage to reputation that mistakes or accidents cause.

The checklists (Owner checklist and Contractor checklist) from the Watertown, SD-based National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) can help building owners ensure that each contractor hired to work on their building is fully equipped and qualified to perform his/her job at the safest level, reducing risk to their company and protecting the lives and property of the building tenants and the contractors.

These checklists set the benchmark for professionalism and experience of on-site personnel, and include tips on how to:

  • Identify and evaluate the experience necessary for a project.
  • Verify contractor insurance coverage appropriate for the scope of work.
  • Evaluate the contractor's written and implemented safety program.
  • Secure agreement that a competent, qualified person will be on the project site daily to conduct safety audits.

Hiring qualified contractors is vital not just because it's the right way to operate. Although safety should always be the first priority, other factors, such as civil and regulatory actions, can result from accidents caused by unsafe or unqualified contractors operating on a jobsite.

Building owners should maintain control over their properties and make it a priority to ensure that qualified contractors with proper training and equipment are hired to conduct the job professionally and safely.

NATE's checklists are based on the tower construction and service industry's best practices and standards that tower owner and contractors should follow when building or servicing antenna towers on commercial rooftops. The checklist is based on NATE's many years of partnering with OSHA to provide the latest safety training and materials to tower climbers and maintenance crews.

With the advent of HDTV, and with new communications technologies being developed every day, leased roof space will continue to generate returns. By taking an active role in safety, building owners can keep companies that lack proper safety training and equipment from being hired. Working together, building owners and telecommunications companies can provide secure environments and help ensure that everyone goes home safe at the end of the day.

Tower Owner Safety Checklist

As a tower owner, you should:

1. Hire safe contractors

✔ Determine whether tower service companies have a written safety and health program before hiring them to perform work on your tower. OSHA training should be documented and available for review.

✔ Prevent climbers from accessing towers in adverse weather conditions: high wind, lightning, rain, or ice.

2. Maintain a safe environment/site

✔ Have climbing safety features that meet OSHA regulations, including an un-obstructive climbing ladder that's secure and in good repair, and a properly installed, maintained, and functioning safety climb system.

✔ Lower RF emitters (antennas) to a safe level or turn them off completely before climbers are allowed to access the structure. Ensure that the power can't be re-energized or increased from a remote location until work on the tower is completed.

✔ Have a proper lockout/tagout program, which is implemented in conjunction with the tower service company and is implemented before climbers are allowed access to the structure.

✔ Coordinate with tenants and other users on the tower to ensure that their equipment is free from known safety hazards, including RF emissions, before allowing climbers to access the tower.


3. Keep towers in good working order

✔ Keep towers maintained and in good repair, and make sure they pose no known safety hazards, before service personnel are allowed to access towers.

✔ Keep guy cable tension wires within manufacturer recommendations.

✔ Maintain tower plumbs within current TIA/EIA 222 standards.

✔ Ensure that towers possess no broken, damaged, or deformed cross members or guy cables.

✔ Ensure that corrosion doesn't affect the structural integrity of members above or below ground, and that no structural deterioration will affect the concrete bases and/or anchorages, which will affect structural integrity.

✔ Maintain written documentation of all training as required.

✔ Prior to the use of subcontractors, notify the company in writing if subcontractors are to be used.

4. Follow guidelines

✔ Agree that any hired subcontractors will be required to meet the contractor requirements outlined in this document.

✔ Adhere to the provisions of OSHA Directive CPL 2-1.36 if any personnel hoisting will be conducted.

✔ If the contractor is required to maintain OSHA 300 logs, make sure they've submitted them for the past 2 years. For companies not required to keep these logs, make sure they've provided their total number of employees and a report on accidents they've sustained, including the nature, type, and number of accidents, for the past 2 years.

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Qualified Contractor Safety Checklist

To ensure that safety is a priority on your site, as a building owner/facility manager, you should:

1. Have a safety program in place

✔ Obtain insurance coverage appropriate for the scope of work prior to commencing the work (e.g. workers' compensation, general liability, etc.). Attach certificates of insurance.

✔ Have the necessary experience, references, and capability to properly perform the specific job at hand.

✔ Write a safety program and agree to have regular safety audits of jobsites conducted by a competent person.

✔ Provide a site-specific safety plan, including rigging, structural, and RF safety procedures, and fall-protection requirements, for this specific job.


2. Maintain the site

✔ Agree that there will be a competent and qualified person at the project who will conduct daily safety audits.

✔ Require pre-employment physical agility or physical fitness tests to determine workers' abilities to perform their job tasks.

✔ Maintain good housekeeping on the jobsite.


3. Conduct assessments

✔ Conduct drug screening of employees for unlawful use of controlled substances.

✔ Conduct a hazard assessment to determine the requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE), including fall protection.

4. Provide appropriate training, notifications, and records

✔ Provide an orientation and awareness program for new hires prior to the performance of any work.

✔ Ensure that tower climbers have been properly trained and that they understand OSHA regulations surrounding fall protection and rescue.

✔ Maintain written records of safety audits for at least 1 year.







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Don Doty is chairman at the Watertown, SD-based National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) and president of Doty Moore Tower Services LLC in North Wales, PA.

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