Crane signalman skillfully handles heat, height and hellish hours

Sunday, July 17, 2011 at 10:05pm

It’s a blisteringly hot afternoon, and Jeff Jackson has just finished a 10-hour shift toiling as a crane signalman on the Music City Center convention facility work site. 

Slender and tanned, Jackson is 58, but he looks at least 10 years shy of that. Construction work keeps a man fit. As he guzzles a cold beer, Jackson talks about keeping the personal balance necessary to do such work: “You don’t stay out late the night before.” 

The man starts his shift at 7 a.m., and he sometimes retires at home for the evening by 8 o’clock. 

Jackson teams with Terry Morris to operate one of the convention center site’s two tower cranes. Morris mans the cab, while Jackson — high-tech communication equipment in hand — walks the site, often tethered and tiptoeing along steel beams, to provide logistics.

“He’ll take a hand signal from me from 500 feet away,” Jackson said of his co-worker. “I’ve got to know the crane as well as Terry does.” 

To survive the intense heat, Jackson drinks as much as a gallon-and-a-half of water and Gatorade each shift. 

Proper hydration isn’t the only concern. Jackson estimated he’s grazed death about 20 times (a spiraling spliced cable to the groin region “hurt bad,” he said). The man’s arms are scarred from the sharp objects of construction work, and his tan didn’t come from sunbathing. He once fell about 50 feet into fresh concrete — and walked away. 

At 66 hours and seven days a week, the convention center job is rough work. But Jackson has more than 25 years in the industry, experience that serves him well.

“I’ve quit, and then forgot I quit and came back to work the next day,” he said, chuckling. 

Jackson, who lives in Sumner County, is employed by Minnesota-based Danny’s Construction Co. Inc. He said keys to handling the job psychologically are confidence and taking a practical approach. 

“If I’m standing on an I-beam 200 feet in the air, I’ll keep standing before I sit,” he said. “It’s too hard to get back up.

“There is no pressure as long as you’re sure of yourself,” Jackson added. “My stress has a short memory.”

1 Comment on this post:

By: 5 Fingers on 7/18/11 at 12:48