Thought this might be of interest.
From Apple 2.0, "Mac news from outside the reality distortion field"
Fatal bandwidth: 6 cell tower deaths in 5 weeks
By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
May 28, 2008
There’s a price to pay for the wireless networks we take for granted.
On May 16, Jonathan Guilford, 25, of Fort Payne, Alabama, was working on
an AT&T UMTS (3G) project in Haubstadt, Ind., when he fell to his death
from a 200-foot tower, according to a report in Wireless Estimator, an
online newsletter that covers the communications construction industry.
Falls from high towers are not unheard of in this business. But for more
than four months — between Dec. 5 and April 11 — the industry was
Then in April, as Wireless Estimator president Craig Lekutis notes with
alarm, five workers fell to their death from mobile phone towers in the
space of 12 days. Guilford’s death in May was the sixth this year.
Accidents like this often come in spurts, says Lekutis, an industry
veteran with 27 years experience. There were 10 fatal falls from
elevated structures of all kinds (including TV, electrical and water
towers) in 2007, and a record 18 in 2006. But this year’s concentrated
run of cell tower accidents, he says, was extraordinary.
The toll, as recorded by Wireless Estimator:
April 12: A 34-year-old cell tower technician from Oklahoma man died
after falling 150 feet from monopole antenna in Wake Forest, NC. It was
the nation’s first death in 2008 of a communications worker falling from
an elevated structure.
April 14: A tower worker employed by Cornerstone Tower of Grand Island,
Neb., fell to his death in Moorcroft, WY.
April 15: A 38-year-old technician finished tightening the bolts on a
guyed wireless tower in San Antonio, TX, “sort of lean[ed] back a
little,” according to witnesses, and fell 225 feet to his death.
April 17: North Carolina suffered its second cell tower fatality in a
week when a 46-year-old Chesapeake, VA, man fell from a communications
antenna in Frisco, NC.
April 23: A Griffin, GA, man died from extensive head and chest injuries
after falling 100 feet from a communications tower near Natchez, MS. He
was reportedly hanging boom gates to a Cell South antenna when he fell.
May 16: Guilford was rappelling down a load line attached to a 200 foot
monopole when he stopped abruptly 140 feet up and bounced as if on a
bungee cord, disengaging the carabiner that was secured to the tower.
At least three of the six accidents, Lekutis says, citing industry
documents, occurred on AT&T projects.
On May 21, AT&T issued a press release describing its $20 billion
roll-out of a nationwide 3G network. It promised to have 275 of the
markets it serves in the U.S. 3G-ready by the end of June, and to finish
the remaining 75 by the end of the year (see here). AT&T is the
exclusive U.S. carrier for Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone. A new, 3G version of
that device is widely expected to be released in June.
A spokesman for AT&T Mobile confirms that Jonathan Guilford was working
on a tower for an AT&T 3G network, but denies that his death or the
others had anything to do with the June deadline. “That is a software
upgrade,” says William Marks. “You go to each tower and use a laptop to
perform the upgrade at the base station at the bottom of the tower.
There is no need to climb towers.”
Marks acknowledges that AT&T is continuing to bring 3G networking to new
markets in the U.S., work that involves building new towers and
installing new antennas. But he says that this is part of the company’s
broader 3G roll-out, and unrelated to any events in June.
On April 21, after the first two deaths on its projects, AT&T called for
a construction stand down and issued an order to subcontractors that
read, in part:
“AT&T … requires you to hold, at a minimum, a half-day safety refresher
training course this week with all of your construction employees and
subcontractors providing services for AT&T. Upon completion of the
safety refresher training this week, AT&T expects that you will
reinforce this training with additional random safety checks at the
construction sites to ensure that appropriate safety measures are being
AT&T’s Marks prefers to describe the order as a “refresher course,”
rather than stand down. “We consider the safety of our contractors and
our employees to be our first priority,” he says.
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