Sunday, January 25, 2009

Three Safety Rules for Tower Work

For myself, I've adopted three rules in order to ensure the safe execution of all tower work. But, before I write about the rules, I first have to tell a sad story.

When I moved to my current QTH, there was a fellow ham nearby -- he lived less than a mile from me. Though he lived in the neighborhood near me, I never met him. I believe his name was Paul.

Paul had a modest tower and tribander, like me. At a hamfest in November, a fellow ham loaned him an MFJ antenna analyzer. Paul was quite eager to climb up and make some fine adjustments to his antennas. He asked his friend if he would come over, but it was a cool, slightly drizzly day, and his friend suggested he do it at another time. Paul couldn't wait.

So, he climbed the tower himself that day. When his wife and kids came home from shopping about three hours later, they found him at the base of the tower. Unfortunately, it was too late.

Near as anyone can figure, he tried to climb while holding the analyzer with one hand, so it wouldn't be damaged. Somewhere on the way up, he lost his grip with his other hand. Ironically, he had full safety harness, but with one hand occupied, it was too difficult to clip in to the tower.

Tower climbing is a dangerous business. I knew of Paul's accident when I built my tower, so, for myself, I made three rules:
  1. Never Climb Alone.
  2. Never Climb Except in Good Conditions.
  3. Always Take All Safety Precautions.
I borrowed the first rule from SCUBA diving. SCUBA divers know never to dive alone. Tower climbers should never climb unless they have at least a ground crew. If nothing else, a ground person can call 911 should anything bad happen. I've taught my kids from an early age how to properly act as ground crew. If nothing else, if I should fall and be hanging from the safety lanyard, I know someone will call 911 and get the emergency crews out there. I wouldn't want to be hanging there for hours until someone notices.

The second rule is pretty broad. Good conditions include the weather. I refuse to climb in rain, snow, windy, dark, or really hot or really cold conditions. Good conditions also apply to the climber. Tower work is demanding, physically exhausting. I refuse to climb when I'm tired, under the weather, or just not mentally "with it". 

The third rule should be common sense. I climb with a full safety harness. I have a fall arrest lanyard clipped into the D-ring on my back, and it is always clipped into the tower. When I'm moving the fall arrest, I have a short 3-ft rope lanyard from the D-ring to the tower. I also always use my positioning lanyard during the climb. It allows me to stop and rest at any level. 

All these precautions slow me down. I have some friends who like to free climb to the top, then they belt in. That's their prerogative -- but it's not for me. I'd rather be slow and safe than fast and sorry.

So, there you have it. Enjoy your tower, plan your climb, execute your plan, and stay safe.

1 comment:

  1. Very useful safety measures for beginners...Thanks a lot sir.