June is National Safety Month, so Inside Towers spoke with Cari Shyiak, CEO at SAC Wireless to discuss the importance of workplace safety for employees and vendors in our ever-evolving industry, how the company embraces high standards both in the office and on the worksite, and how prepared the company was to handle the COVID-19 pandemic.
SAC’s “zero tolerance” policy for any unsafe practices is strictly enforced. “Each of us has the responsibility to keep workplaces and workers safe, assuring that everyone goes home safe each and every day,” said Shyiak. “We happily share best practices with our competitors and learn from them too. There are plenty of areas to compete, but safety should be a shared mission for every player in the industry.”
Coronavirus pushed safety to the forefront of just about every business on the planet. In addition to protocols, training and procedures already in place, businesses now need to account for social distancing, work-from-home technologies, and PPE (personal protective equipment) access.
“SAC provides infrastructure support, so we were deemed an essential business and stayed on the front lines to help our customers keep towers, data switches and control centers running,” said Shyiak. “While some new projects were put on hold, we kept many essential build-outs on track to improve the way workers, students, and healthcare providers could do their jobs, safely, from a distance. Most of our office staff transitioned to ‘work-from-home’ while our field crews quickly adapted to new protocols.”
Long before COVID-19, ZOOM and PPE became part of the national lexicon, SAC was an industry pioneer in workplace safety.
“Complacency is the enemy of safety, so we’ve always been committed to continually improving our practices nationwide,” Shyiak said. SAC Wireless has state-of-the-art training centers across the country. The Chicago-area facility includes a 50-foot tall outdoor practice tower and offers numerous certifications, including technical expertise and CPR. “This practice ensures that our crews, all of whom train at this facility, never get their first climbing experience at a jobsite.”
The company is proud of its 15,000-square-foot space dedicated to training, complete with three indoor training towers. National safety trainers cover all equipment and workplace procedures in a variety of weather conditions to ensure the safety of all involved parties.
SAC Wireless’ focus on safety doesn’t end when new hires complete their intensive training. That’s only the beginning. Each SAC Wireless project begins with a job safety analysis. All employees are trained to report potential hazards, and when necessary, to stop work until rectified.
This mindset extends beyond field crews. Architects and engineers develop and execute plans with the same mentality. The company’s Principal Architect is a key figure in the company-wide safety team and involved in building their Safety Culture from the inside out. “From height to location to safe site access and materials’ utilization, our A&E teams are just as involved in safety as the field crews,” says Shyiak.
Safety skills are so ingrained at SAC, they are applied outside of work, recently exemplified by two employees. “One was in a hardware store and the other was walking home from the office when they witnessed strangers in distress. Both assessed the individuals in need and relayed information to first responders on the way to the scene. I couldn’t be prouder of that,” said Shyiak.
SAC crews are also armed with cutting-edge field tools and technologies. “We’re an industry leader in digitizing certifications for field crews. If a site is audited, there is always a central, digital record of every crewmember’s certifications at the foreman’s fingertips,” he explains.
An encouraging OSHA report in December 2019 cited a 14 percent decline in work-related fatal falls, the lowest total since 2013. Such achievements can be attributed to the proactive efforts of industry leaders like SAC Wireless, plus industry associations like NATE. While positive gains have been made in recent years, the forward motion must continue. Shyiak says, “Smaller vendors must be screened properly and encouraged to make investments in safety for their employees. Pre-climb inspections, rigging plans, training certificate reviews, and message unification should be best practices for every company, every size.”
SAC Wireless’ dedication to the industry was on display at the NATE UNITE event in February, where they donated $15,000 to NATE’s Tower Family Foundation. “We wanted to show our commitment to our employees and climbers throughout the industry. They’re the backbone of our business,” Shyiak explained.
That backbone continues to gain strength, thanks to veterans. “We have more than 80 veterans across our markets and are actively seeking to hire more. Many of the veterans we have hired have been promoted to management positions since starting with us. So, I’d also very much like to tell them there’s a career for them here—not just a job.”
With 25 offices throughout the United States and over 1,600 employees, SAC Wireless is an innovative company with turnkey solutions that include the design, build, and upgrading of wireless networks.
For more information, or to contact a representative, visit https://sacw.com/.