Communication and broadcast tower erection, servicing, and maintenance was a very small and highly specialized industry until the 1980s. Now, there is a need for wireless and broadcast communications every day, and consequently there is a growing demand in communication tower construction and maintenance. ANSI/ASSP A10.48-2023: Criteria For Safety Practices With The Construction, Demolition, Modification And Maintenance Of Communication Structures establishes criteria for safe work practices and training for personnel performing work on communication structures.
Communication Tower Industry Risks
In the communication towers industry, employees climb towers from 100 feet to 2000 feet high to perform physically demanding construction and maintenance activities, even during inclement weather conditions. Some frequently encountered hazards from this work include falls from great heights, electrical, falling objects, equipment failure, structural collapse of towers, and improper rigging and hoisting practices.
The business structure of the communication tower industry presents additional challenges to ensuring employee safety, as the responsibility for employee safety is fractured into many layers. Instead of a single company having control and responsibility for employee safety and tower, employer safety responsibilities are often spread over numerous small employers. Ensuring employee safety therefore requires accountability and diligence throughout the contracting process: from the carrier to the individual employee performing the work. Following the criteria in ANSI/ASSP A10.48-2023 helps ease this process.
What Is ANSI/ASSP A10.48-2023?
ANSI/ASSP A10.48-2023 establishes minimum criteria for safe work practices and training for personnel performing work on communication structures including antenna and antenna supporting structures, broadcast, and other similar structures supporting communication related equipment. This American National Standard serves as a resource, outlining many construction and maintenance practices. It provides comprehensive specifications that encompass the entirety of the tower construction, service, and maintenance industry.
All construction activities on communication structures involving cranes should include direct communication with the crane company and/or operator to establish construction plan requirements and key designated personnel to ensure individual roles and responsibilities are fully understood. When working with cranes the following designated personnel should include but not limited to; a crane operator, signal person, spotter when applicable and qualified rigger(s) responsible for attaching and detaching the lifted loads from the crane’s hook.
How Do Cell Towers Work?
There are over 300 million cell phones being used daily in the United States. Whenever a cell phone is used, it emits an electromagnetic radio wave (i.e., radio frequency) that is received by the nearest cell tower’s antenna. Besides antennas, cell towers consist of various components like base transceiver stations, masts, and ground-based equipment. All of this equipment allows efficient wireless cellular communication by managing signals from our mobile devices. These structures play an integral role in the wireless communication ecosystems, allowing us to make calls, send texts, and access the internet from our mobile devices. The distinction between 4G and 5G towers lies in improved speed, capacity, and latency provided by 5G technology. With updated and newer technology comes the need for more rigorous testing. The thorough and intensive testing of communication towers, which ANSI/ASSP A10.48-2023 lays out, assures optimal performance and reliability of these towers.
What Should a Construction Plan Consider?
ANSI/ASSP A10.48-2023 details that a construction should consider the following:
- Site information
- Location of the supporting structure
- Scope of work
- Construction classification
- Project personnel
- Construction sequence and duration
- Construction equipment including planned hoisting system(s)
- Operational and non-operational construction loads including limitations
- Any special procedures and/or details to ensure a safe work environment during construction
- The type of climbing facilities available
- Supporting structure type, size, and details needed to identify applicable rigging attachment points including existing obstructions
- Rigging attachment details and location(s) on the structure
- Gross loads to be lifted
- General site layout, identifying hoist and tag locations, staging areas, and site-specific obstructions
- Proof testing, load testing, specific procedures for all operations involving removal or disconnection of in-service structural members including guy assemblies, critical procedural operations, temporary bracing or shoring, and/or field monitoring requirements
- Antennas or portions of the structure that may actively or passively radiate RF energy that may impact the rigging equipment including arc flash and touch point issues (the qualified person should have experience in RF and engage a qualified engineer when required)