Wally Reardon of Pulaski climbed towers hundreds of feet high for 13 years before attending SUNY Oswego. As a senior political science major in 2009-10, he put together an award-winning safety project for tower climbers.
On the job, Reardon had witnessed a colleague's devastating fall from a tower.
The fast-growing communications industry has sometimes put safety in the background in the rush to put up towers, Reardon said, and so have some climbers.
“The sad part is a lot of tower climbers don't know the plight they’re in,” Reardon said. “Most companies hire unskilled workers for the best-paying jobs they've ever had.”
As a student at Oswego, during internships at the Workers' Center of Central New York and Upstate Medical University's Occupational Health Clinical Center, he gathered stories and data from climbers and managers and worked with grieving families to complete the project: the Workers at Heights Health and Safety Initiative.
Soon after his May graduation, Reardon's project won a national award from the American Public Health Association. He has spoken widely on tower safety, including at the association’s 2010 annual meeting in Denver and in Washington, D.C., at a national conference of the United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities.
Photo: Reardon nears the top of a 1,100-foot television tower in the late 1990s.