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The Ledger - EST. 1978 - Nashville Edition

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VOL. 42 | NO. 7 | Friday, February 16, 2018

Hettish on safety, equipment and troublesome climbs

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Safety: “I’ve never come close to falling from a tower in the 46 years I’ve been doing this, and to the best of my knowledge none of the people I have trained have come close, either.

“I focus on awareness, and also work with younger people in their late 20s and early 30s who are the right age to get into this work.”

He also adds that, for the most part, radio and broadcast tower work is less volatile than cell-tower work, which often requires a speedy ramp-up to add new technology to hundreds of towers in a short time period.

“They have to get thousands of tower workers who don’t exist, so they hire quickly to build up that workforce,” he explains.

“They’ll basically hire just about anybody, and that’s one reason we have stayed away from that kind of work. It’s much more dangerous.”


Hettish says he used a rock-climbing harness that weighed about 1.5 pounds when he first started.

In the late 1990s, OSHA turned its attention to tower climbers and began mandating much more equipment.

He now wears about 21.5 pounds of gear, including a full-body harness, two deceleration lanyards that are designed to stop falls after one meter and a slider that attaches to safety cables that are now on most towers.

Trouble Towers:

Hettish says he’s never particularly afraid on a climb, but does admit to a few towers that he does not enjoy.

One, a 60-year-old tower, has 1/8-inch horizontal pads for climbing coupled with a narrow rise, so it’s a tough climb.

Another is aluminum, which means it’s likely to sway during a climb if winds are present. Still, he says, it’s part of the job.

“These are little towers, so you’re only up 100 feet or so,” he says. “As long as I’ve got a decent place to put my feet, I can get up there to get the work done.”