TCI Magazine, official publication of the TREE CARE INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION https://tcimag.tcia.org/tree-care/beware-the-dangers-from-am-radio-and-5g-transmission-sites/
by RICK HOWLAND
As if tree care isn’t dangerous enough, there’s an increasing safety threat that hasn’t yet gotten much attention – radio waves. Radio waves are everywhere, and have been since the dawn of the universe. Man-made ones have been around for more than a century, starting with the wireless telegraph. But with ever-more sophisticated uses of the radio spectrum and increased use of aerial equipment –aerial lifts and cranes – in proximity to the source of radio waves, serious injury becomes a concern.
The latest threat is the proliferation of the so-called 5G, or Fifth Generation, cellular-phone networking that promises faster data speeds and greater reliability using multiple technologies, including mini-cell sites at the neighborhood level on utility poles. But working too closely or too long near one of these mini installations or near a high-power radio transmitter can be dangerous in several ways, specifically resulting in burns or, in some rare circumstances, electric shock.
The industry has experienced incidents related to radio-frequency (RF) radiation.
John Haehnel, director of safety and training for Tree Tech, Inc., a dual-accredited, 38-year TCIA member company headquartered in Foxboro, Massachusetts, can speak to the dangers from experience, and has the scars to prove it.
This past September, Haehnel and his utility line-clearance crew were working just outside of Boston with an all-terrain crane within the proximity – about 100 yards – of several AM radio towers and a 5G cell-transmission installation. “I got zapped,” he reports, “maybe from the AM tower or the 5G. We are running into that more and more.”
Haehnel, who happened to be filling in for the vacationing crane operator that day, states that, as one of his crew was getting ready to go aloft, the worker reported something was wrong and that he felt as if he was being shocked. (This phenomenon is described in numerous Federal Communications Commission [FCC] documents.)
Haehnel had the crane boom out about 110 feet or more. “I had the crane’s ball down to tie in the worker, walked over to it, got to within a foot-and-a-half and got zapped by the ball.” He says the lightning-like flashover resulted in first- and second-degree burns and a scar to one hand. “The ball was so hot, you could not touch it.”
Initially, Haehnel thought the situation might be something electrical with the crane, until the nearby radio towers explained it. “Ironically, I had just done a small-scale, 5G safety presentation just two weeks prior,” he says, adding, “but from where we were, we could not see the big 5G antenna,” which is part of a 5G network, not just the small local sites.
Haehnel reports that they later discovered four or five AM antennas and the big 5G antenna installation nearby. “We had scoped out the site and put the crane ball next to the tree, but we could not see the towers from ground level,” he says.
View a video demonstrating the radio-frequency-related arcing at the link above.