Big News for Telecommunications Workers

A10.48 and TIA 322 are fast tracked, with a Jan. 1, 2017, effective date for both.

The A10 Committee has now approved A10.48, Criteria for Safety Practices with the Construction, Demolition, Modification and Maintenance of Communications Structures, an important new standard for the telecommunications industry. Gordon Lyman, CEO of eSystem Training Solutions, chairs the A10 subcommittee that developed it—not from scratch but based on the TIA 1019A standard, which came out of OSHA's partnership with the National Association of Tower Erectors. The standard covered both engineering and use, making it unwieldy, so the decision was made to split it, putting the use portion into the new A10.48 standard and the engineering portion into the new TIA 322. They're fast tracked, with a Jan. 1, 2017, effective date for both. Lyman said the feeling was that 1019 was already in existence and companies should've been following it, so the industry can cope with a faster-than-usual implementation date.

"Now we have an engineering standard and we have a use standard," he explained. "Probably 98 percent of the standards out there are design standards, they're how you manufacture something. It's only in the last few years that use standards are actually starting to evolve."

Almost nothing in the OSHA standards is relevant to the telecommunications industry because it's small, with approximately 15,000 to 20,000 field workers in the industry, Lyman said. The new standard is comprehensive and fills about 110 pages.

Lyman said two significant 2014 incidents caught everyone's attention, including OSHA and the biggest players in the telecommunications industry. "Everybody's been waiting for the A10.48 standard to come out. Everybody knows about it, and there's been a lot of publicity about it within the industry," he said.

Asked what the industry has been doing wrong, he answered simply, "Training. What has happened is, with such a small industry, big training companies didn't develop what I call canned training programs because there's not enough people to buy and not enough money in it to produce them. So there was never any official or standardized training program developed for the telecom industry, and so the industry relied completely on on-the-job training. And if you got with some good crews who knew what they were doing, you learned well, but most of the people really didn't know what they were doing and the training was really very poor. And we are still struggling with that, as a matter of fact."

But now a lot is happening. The National Wireless Safety Alliance (www.nws-a.org) is developing Telecommunications Tower Technician I and II certification and competency testing using A10.48 material, and the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (www.tirap.org) partnership funded by DOL also relies on the standard. "Those two are running in parallel," Lyman said, "so there is education coming to our industry."

This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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