Very few tower climbers will need to buy their own RF meter, as companies are required by OSHA regulations to supply them to their employees. If a basic one is being used however, some employees will opt to have their own. One that they are familiar with and trust, one that they take care of themselves, one that the climber is sure is equipped with state of the art technology.
Even if you choose not to buy your own RF meter, knowing the features, ratings and sensitivities of the RF meters used will let you know what their limits are. No piece of equipment should be a substitution for common sense. If you are on a climb and you start having the warning signs of radiation or electricity exposure, you should climb down, even if your meter is not showing a reading. Even if you are wearing an RF suit and a meter, some of the tests conducted by the FCC have shown that radiofrequency exposure was still sometimes over the limit seemed safe.
When shopping for an RF meter, you need to know what you are looking for before you start the shopping process. It is not like gloves where you can have a general idea and go to the store trying on 50 pairs until you find the perfect one.
Before you go, ask yourself the following questions:
- What kinds of field will you need to measure? For the majority of tower climbers, RF fields are the primary dangers.
- How accurate and sensitive does my meter need to be? Radiofrequency fields exist in varying levels, from several kHz to 110 gHz. 6 to 20 gHz are the most common opperating frequencies. Towers that are strictly cellular antennas have a lower RF rating then towers which broadcast TV and radio, so the type of work you do determines how sensitive the meter needs to be. The more sensitive the meter, the higher the price tag, but no price can be put on safety.
- Digital or Analog? A digital meter provides more accuracy, but an analog meter is better for readings on the go and for initial surveying.
- Do I need a three axis version or will a single axis model be sufficient? A three axis meter has multiple sensors in it. This means that the three axis model doesn’t need to be properly aligned in order to get an accurate reading. A single axis will still provide an accurate reading, but it must be rotated until the highest reading is obtained. A three axis meter costs more, but it saves time.
- What features do I want? Since a variety of equally good meters exist, a lot of the choice comes down to preference. Do you want an audible reading? How important are things like weight and portability? Is cost the main factor or are there features you really want or need? Take into account what you will be doing with the information as well. This will determine which meters work for your purpose.
Regardless of which sensor you get, it can only work if you actually use it. It does no good to anyone if your RF meter is sitting at home or in your truck. Whichever one you choose, do yourself a favor and always have it handy and fully charged.