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Examining the Professional Life of a Cell Tower Climber

Are you comfortable with hands-on tasks while you’re hanging off of a ladder? Do you consider yourself a good problem-solver when you’re standing atop a 150-foot tower? If you like working outdoors and are partial to panoramic views, consider a career as a cell tower climber.

Most cell phone towers are between 50 and 400 feet in height, though some are much taller. Acrophobia (fear of heights) is one of the most common phobias, so there are plenty of folks who’d prefer to work at sea level. However, though this type of career is not for everyone, those who pursue it are invaluable to the telecommunications industry, which makes them invaluable to all of us who use cell phones.

What Is a Cell Tower Climber?

Cell tower climbers are professionals whose work involves climbing monopoles and other tower systems to help maintain them. They inspect and perform repairs and other maintenance tasks that the towers require. Their skillset must include developing the knowledge-base to examine complicated electrical equipment and diagnose and fix existing, or potential, issues.

Commonly, those who apply for these positions are asked about their relationship with heights and whether or not they can leave personal problems at home. The reason for this second question is simply because a lack of focus to any degree can lead to a fatal mistake for themselves or their colleagues.

What Is the Schedule of a Cell Tower Climber?

Climbers don’t necessarily have a 9-to-5 job. Work days typically last for eight to 10 hours, or longer. There could be a lot of travel involved, depending on what aspect of the work you’re engaged in. Some climbers will spend weeks at a time on the road.

Climbers who work for carriers usually spend 80% of their time traveling across a wide territory. For those who work on broadcast towers, they will spend about 50% of their time traveling. Those who engage in local maintenance will only spend about 20% of their time traveling.

Life of a Tower Climber

What Are the Pay and Benefits for a Cell Tower Climber?

Climber pay is affected by many factors, including experience, employer, region and certification. Cost of living is also a factor that contributes to climber pay. While climbers in some parts of the country start off at $30,000-$35,000, those in more expensive, urban areas like Los Angeles or New York could expect that starting pay to be doubled. Most companies also pay out time and a half for overtime and double-time on Sundays.

While most companies pay an hourly wage, some pay by the job. It is not unusual for hourly workers to report earning $60,000 or more per year, but working a 60-hour per week schedule that saw them traveling extensively.

Tower techs have more knowledge and responsibility than climbers, and this is reflected in their pay, as they earn between $10,000 to $15,000 more annually. Foremen make about $40,000 on average while mechanical engineers make about $70,000 to $80,000.

As for benefits, most companies offer full medical and dental insurance, while some offer a 401(k) plan. Because there is so much travel, employers pay a per diem, which is meant to cover meals and lodging costs. In addition, most climbers effectively take possession of a company vehicle, which they can take home every night.

What Are the Risks and Challenges of Being a Cell Tower Climber?

One of the biggest risk factors in the professional life of a cell tower climber is the absence of uniform accountability of regulations concerning gear, equipment and other salient safety requirements. As far as insurance goes, there is no universally adopted set of coverages used by employers across the board, which is indicative of an industry that is still determining its risk factors.

With that said, safety gear continues to improve. Climbers use the same grade equipment that is used to scale mountains, so the risks of falling are not being ignored or treated cavalierly.

Another industry risk is common to all lines of work: the phenomenon in which comfort breeds inattention. Tower climbers aren’t just brave; they’re at home high up in the elements. When a worker in any field is doing something for the hundredth time, at the end of a long day, they’re liable to become complacent. For tower climbers, this can be fatal. For context, the on-the-job fatality rate for tower workers is about 10 times that of construction workers.

Natural elements like heat, cold, rain, snow and fog can all contribute to the dangers of the job. Beyond that, because tower sites are often off the beaten path, access to immediate medical care may be hard to come by.

What Is the Future of Cell Tower Climbers?

We can confidently predict that the future for climbers is expansive. As long as the world becomes increasingly reliant on technologies like 5G technology and other wireless services, the cell tower climber will have a job.

As there is currently a huge need for qualified tower workers, many companies are actively recruiting for vocational schools, meaning that the ROI for those looking to invest in a tower climbing education is extremely high.

Climbing cell towers is dangerous work, tacitly full of inherent risk. Like any people who work in construction or with heavy machinery, climbers must be protected because their welfare affects the welfare of the business. Visit us at Volaris Insurance to see what type of insurance coverage we can provide you.