Electricity and communications are often taken for granted. It has become so common in society today that when we go home and log on, no thought goes into the effort taken to generate electricity, transfer electricity, and to get it into the homes of billions of people. For tower climbers, who keep our communications systems running, electricity is a daily part of the job. They must put extra emphasis on protecting themselves, especially the head and the hands.
Insulated Tower Climbing Gloves
To protect the hands there isn’t just one pair of gloves that will serve all purposes. For the climb, gloves need a better grip. When it comes to working with electricity though, it is always better to be prepared. A tower may be turned down to limit the impact of RF waves, but anytime there is electricity, it pays to be cautious.
Tower climbing has been named the number one most dangerous job in America . The annual death rate of tower workers is more than ten times that of construction workers. There are about 10,000 of these guys working on our cell and other tall towers, and they’re dying at an alarming rate.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) finally caught wind of this development and began to try to take action to alleviate the situation in 2014. What they found was that the workers who build these towers for larger companies, such as AT&T and Verizon, were hired through subcontractors rather than directly. There was no way to file a lawsuit with the corporation itself. But where does the fault really lie in the end? On the contractor that was furthest down the chain of other subcontractors?
The issue here may be a lack of intimacy and understanding of the situation. Jordan Barab, OSHA’s deputy administrator, reported that they had, “had a number of situations where [they thought] that accidents were caused by companies trying to meet deadlines and…cutting corners on safety in order to meet those deadlines”.
Your helmet is one accessory that you will practically live in. It will be worn everyday, in the heat, in the cold, in every condition imaginable. Unlike a pair of shoes, your helmet will not “break in,” it’s straps may loosen with use, but it is industrial and not exactly designed for comfort. Your helmet can still be semi comfortable though, if you get the proper fit.
Tower Climbing Helmet
First, understand that not all Tower Climbing Helmets are created the same. The straps on the inside of the helmet may be a little higher set, while on others it is lower. It sounds a bit odd, but think about the shape of your head when buying. Since work helmets sit on top of the head and do not encompass it, take notice if your ears protrude a great deal or if your head is bigger or smaller than average.
With the everything that happens in day to day life, it can be difficult to take proper care of all the equipment that has been used. While you are hanging your harness, dusting your boots, and throwing your gloves in your locker, the RF meter is often forgotten. This is a vital piece of equipment. 99.9% of the time a tower will be emitting zero to low amounts of radio frequency, but you don’t want your meter failing that one time.
Cleaning- Just like all the other equipment you take with you on a climb, RF meters are exposed to the elements. I’m certainly not suggesting you throw such a precision piece of equipment into a tub of soapy water, but it should be brushed off if it is dropped in the dirt or mud. If dirt gets into one of the connections it may not read properly so disassemble and reassemble if you possess the skills. If you do not possess the required skills then take it to a professional. Never remove any pieces you are unsure of, even if you did rebuild your Nintendo growing up.
With all the types of equipment needed for a tower climber to effectively do their job, it seems like a lot of back and forth can happen. Comparing websites with different information can be a headache, so here is the cliff notes version, a sort of “cheat sheet” if you will that tells you the most vital information at a glance.
The most important factor when deciding which helmet to get is the fit. To determine a proper fit place the helmet on your head and shake your head back and forth. Even without the chin strap, the helmet should not wiggle. UIAA helmets have stricter requirements for safety than CE. Store them in your locker away from direct sunlight.
According to OSHA guidelines, a hardhat or helmet must be worn by tower climbers to prevent injuries. So you put one on, wear it and call it good, but it really doesn’t end there. There are common mistakes made that can limit the effectiveness of your helmet. These mistakes aren’t just made by novices or newbies, some are made by people who have spent their whole career under just such a helmet.
1) Helmets don’t have expiration dates.- This is false. Even if your helmet has never suffered from a break, a fall, or a crash, there is a limited lifetime for the use of your helmet. The plastic, foam, and other components begin to break down with age. As a good rule of thumb… if the helmet is bought from a retailer, it should be discarded before five years passes. Some will even say that it should be five years from a manufacturing date.
Of course, this is for helmets that are properly stored and kept in a climate controlled environment. For tower climbers who are out in the elements the helmet suspension should be replaced yearly, while the shell will be fine following the five year guideline. If an impact has occurred, then immediate helmet replacement should happen.
Men are a lot less likely to become emotionally attached to footwear than a lot of women are. This does not mean that attachments can’t form. Finding the perfect pair of work boots, breaking them in, coating them, getting insoles, it is all quite a bit of work. There are a lot of guys who will duct tape a falling apart shoe just to avoid having to go back to the store. It isn’t so much about the money needed to buy a new pair as it is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it..” thought process.
Work boots are vital to safety, so regardless of how comfortable they are, how many jobs they have been with you on, or how irregular your foot shape is, there comes a time in the lifespan of every boot, when it must be replaced, lest you risk a slip at the worst possible time. Every tower climber must eventually suck it up and go shoe shopping.
No one knows when the operation of a tower will go down. It could be noon, in the morning, late at night, when there is a storm, a clear sky, literally anytime. The importance of having a good work light can make a huge difference. Even in the daylight, the nuances of some systems may require more lighting. There are several types of work lights available, and they each have their own benefits.
LED vs CFL vs Incandescent: LED’s by far put out the highest amount of lumens per watt generated. They also have a longer lifespan than the other two types. Incandescent lights will work in a pinch, and work lights have a wider selection in this form, but, when ever possible using an LED light source will make it easier to see.
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.
Your harness has been there for you, every climb, keeping you safe and giving you a sense of security on every 1000 foot climb. Your helmet, with your favorite sports team logo on it has protected your head from all the overhead debris. Even those boots, that are so well broken in that it feels like nothing is even on your feet. It is weird that such an attachment can develop to the items that are inanimate, but often it does and this attachment can lead some men and women to not trade out their equipment when it is needed.
Each harness, has a different lifetime. The same type of harness, by the same manufacturer will have a slightly different lifetime. On average, a harness will last from one to ten years, and they each come with a manual that has the projected lifetime. Don’t worry, these manuals are available online for those of us who don’t even crack open a manual before tossing it.