The narrated video produced by TheOnLineEngineer.org, entitled "Stairway to Heaven," with a small segment shown above, was presented in an instructional mode explaining the exacting procedures for climbing a communications structure.
Unfortunately, the tower technicians were free climbing and the narrator had no knowledge about fall protection standards, stating that in regards to free climbing, "...it's easier, faster and most tower workers climb this way. Free climbing is more dangerous, of course, but OSHA rules do allow for it."
Jim Coleman, Chairman of the National Association of Tower Erectors viewed the video this morning on YouTube and was troubled by the comments concerning free climbing. He was also concerned that it was entitled as a tutorial.
"I'm unaware of any guidance by OSHA that allows for free climbing as an acceptable method of accessing elevated work," Coleman said.
Do broadcasters take
The viral tower climbing video is expected to be one of America's most viewed videos and professionals are taking every opportunity to denounce the climbers and the producer of the tutorial for their blatant violations of proper climbing safety procedures.
Although the National Association of Tower Erectors pursues every opportunity it can to ensure that broadcasters fully understand the need to hire professionals, and the resulting problems in liability and poor quality installations if they don't, the broadcast industry trade associations and media do not take an active role in promoting climber safety.
The recent video has been largely ignored by broadcasters, and in one instance where there was a tongue in cheek piece that didn't criticize free climbing, it ostensibly extolled the practice as being acceptable - sort of like You know how those tower guys are! Wink, wink!
An editor of the Radio and Television Business Report, the country's leading voice of the broadcast industry, placed a copy of the video on its web site that was sent to them from engineer Jerry Smith.
Instead of a broad brush condemnation of the practice of free climbing, the article said that "climbers are a breed apart."
After Smith joked about the similarities of falling from a 1,700-foot tower and one at 200 feet, he said the free climbing technician's lack of concern about his safety was somehow analogous to "why we prefer not riding in the car of a tower climber and don't mind paying them to do the lamp replacements."
Ironically, the producer of the video said on his blog today that the climber in a video that appears to be this one was an engineer.
If that's the case, many industry folks have probably been in a car driven by an engineer during their career. Possibly with Mr. Smith.
It's amazing how we ever survived! Perhaps it's because we followed the law and buckled up.
The editor described the video as "the real deal, as viewed by a helmet cam."
It's a raw deal for those who take safety seriously.
The video first appeared on The On Line Engineer's web site, but the man that shot it using a helmet camera, and who approved the edited version, said "he was getting calls from colleagues telling him that they were concerned about what the video showed," according to the web site's owner, Russ Brown. It was removed due to Brown's concern for his friend who provided the climbing footage.
However, the video had been uploaded on YouTube on September 13 from someone who downloaded it from Brown's site. It instantly went viral, registering over a quarter million views by September 15, as well as thousands of viewer comments.
Brown was immediately informed by the unnamed climber that it was on YouTube, and in his blog he said it took him two days to get YouTube to take off the copyrighted video that blurred out the second climber's face.
But the free climbing video has been copied a number of times and keeps popping up on YouTube and social network sites, with one YouTube site showing nearly an additional 100,000 views prior to it too being removed.
However, the video keeps surfacing and one Yahoo video will be eclipsing over 750,000 viewers today.
The video has become a hot topic on forums, from one of the nation's largest poker web sites to a travel forum.
Although professional tower technicians understand the need to observe 100% fall protection while climbing at a height of six feet or more, the impression the video gives is that the sole attributes one needs to be employed is the ability to be fit and fearless.
One commenter on Brown's site wrote: "Wow! What an amazing video! I had no idea they free soloed when climbing. How do (you) train for this job?"
Brown did not return a request to be interviewed.
On his blog on August 28 he wrote: "The work at Sutro went smoothly, Peter Eckmann and his assistant worked quickly and put in the new probe section and got everyone back on the main antenna."
"Later on Peter showed me a video of him working on top of a 2000 foot tower in Texas. He was wearing a helmet camera and the views were out of this world with Peter looking down 2000 feet then up and you can see for 20 miles to the horizon."
"Stay tuned as we may be getting that video right here on TheOnLineEngineer.Org in the near future," he wrote.
It is not known whether Brown was referring to the video he posted on his site of the two men climbing, one with a headcam.
After free climbing to the top of the tower, the tower technician tied off to the top of the structure's lightning rod mast. His co-worker tied off to the same location.
Brown said he had two offers to broadcast his video and had a request to submit it to a film festival in France. He also said that one of the reasons he took it off his site and petitioned YouTube to do the same is because "Some facility owners are pretty uptight about liability."
He is extremely proud of the current video's internet success, stating that he was going to develop more videos about tower climbing in conjunction with the free climbing star of his first venture.
"This was all much more than we had ever planned for or thought would happen," he said on his blog.