Radio Tower Safety The art of being around to make that first QSO on the new antenna…
Warning! Climbing or working around towers is dangerous work to be done only by those with current specialized training. This presentation is not a substitute for proper training and experience. Do not try this at home without the proper equipment and training.
Deep down every ham wants to have a ‘big gun’ tower at their station – one that will support all of their antennas and has a chance to appear on the cover of QST. The building, outfitting and maintaining of that tower usually requires that someone must climb it to do the work. With proper training and tutorage by experienced climbers, almost anyone can safely climb a tower.
There are a number of climbing schools that offer the training and re-training that is required by OSHA. Most of these provide the basics of climbing and rescue off of a tower.
Proper equipment in good condition is required. Forget about that old leather belt that you got for $1.98 at the last hamfest. A modern full- body harness is needed to absorb the shock of a fall and to provide comfort while working. Proper fall restraint and work positioning lanyards are also needed.
A hard hat with a chin strap is important, not only to protect you from things dropped from above, but from hitting your head while working or falling. A brimless style allows you to stick your head into places to see what you are doing. Good footwear that allows you to stand on rungs or cross members is also important.
Gloves are useful for climbing to protect your hands from sharp pieces of galvanizing that always tend to be right where you need to grip. You should have some way of securing them if you take them off to do detail work. You need to practice with them on opening carabiners and locking snaps on your gear.
Before climbing, assess the tower for structural integrity, loose bolts and any other hazards. The climber is spraying wasp nests that are under the eve next to the tower before working in that area.
If there is one cardinal rule of tower climbing, it is that you always have at least one piece of your fall restraint or arrest system attached to the tower at all times. Free climbing leads to free falling which is deadly. There are many types of attachments. The lower climber is using a work positioning strap and a fall arrest lanyard.
The ladder on this tower is equipped with a 3/8” steel cable and the climber is using a cable grab for fall protection. It goes up with him and locks when there is down motion. It makes climbing the ladder much easier as you do not have to stop to reconnect every couple of feet.
For your fall restraint or arrest system to work, you must have an anchor point that can handle 5000 pounds The rungs and their welds on a Rohn 25 tower cannot support that weight so most professional climbers will not work on them. It is time for a bucket truck or a crane.
When it all goes wrong… All of the training classes spend most of their time on teaching how to rescue a climber off of the tower. There are a variety of techniques that can be used safely to get an injured climber to the ground. Now you can see the need to have 2 climbers on the job.
It was the first day on a tower for the new climber that is ‘rescuing’ me. He did well…
The Ground Crew is a vital part of the climb. Experience in rigging and thorough knowledge of the work to be done makes the job go smoothly. A hard hat is always worn in the drop zone around the tower and the area is marked off to keep bystanders away.
There may be other hazards associated with the erection and outfitting of a tower. Nearby power lines may also be a factor -- look up and look around before starting work.
When Safety is foremost on the job, the project gets finished and the operators are ready to get on the air.