[Top] [All Lists]

[TowerTalk] Climbing gear and safety procedures (long)

To: <>
Subject: [TowerTalk] Climbing gear and safety procedures (long)
From: (Jim Idelson)
Date: Wed Aug 6 11:34:13 2003
I pulled this text from the TowerTalk summary created by N1LO. It's great 
stuff; pay attention. I think it's a good time to re-post this info to the 

**********  BEGIN EXTRACTED TEXT **********



Climbing is arguably the most dangerous activity you will ever engage in. 
It is probably more dangerous, statistically, than driving your car. The 
most common home accident is falling off a ladder. However, if you have the 
right equipment, climbing your tower will be much safer than climbing the 
familiar ladder because you will be hooked in to your tower 100% of the 
time. The safest, most comfortable, and most versatile type of climbing 
belt is a seat harness type that has the following features:

1. Positioning D-rings. One at each hip, for use with a positioning 
lanyard that goes around or through the tower, that is rigged once 
you reach your work position.

2. A suspension D-ring ring, in the center, just above your navel, for 
your "cowtails", a V-shaped, double ended climbing/suspension lanyard 
that you use to hook yourself in while you climb, or when you hook to 
a single place such as a mast or climbing rope.

3. Wide straps around your legs and under your seat, that let you sit 
and take the weight off of your feet. Loads on the center D-ring from 
suspending, or short falls, are not applied to your lower back.

4. A belt around your waist having accessory loops for tool buckets and 
carabiners. It's great to have one for tools, another for parts, and 
another for snacks and/or drinks (a break in the middle of a work 
session works wonders!).

5. Lightweight. Most are made of nylon and already are. Stay away from 
leather belts which are no longer approved by OSHA. The leather can 
dry out and become seriously weakened without appearing to be.

6. Easy to get into and out of, and comfortable to wear for long 

7. Cost. Can you place a cost on your life? Medical bills? Permanent 
disability? For God's sake don't fool around with ordinary garment 
belts and dog leash chains! A harness with the above features can be 
had (in 1998) for between $100 and $200, the best insurance you will 
ever buy! Isn't that cheap, in the grand scheme of things? You will 
**feel** safer on the tower, and more at ease, allowing you to 
concentrate on your work, making you even safer. 

The best harness I have seen for this purpose is a cross between the 
mountaineering/caving style and the industrial work positioning style. It 
is the Navaho Vario, part #C79, made by Petzl. See Petzl on the web at and their technical reference page at

 You will have to download their work/rescue catalog supplement in PDF 
format from to see the description of this 
versatile harness. This harness gives you a tremendous degree of freedom 
since it has no shoulder straps to confine your upper body and chafe your 
neck. It is also one of the easiest to put on.

Many tower climbers are switching to the full fall arrest harness with
positioning belt D-rings, such as the model #3520 by DBI/SALA. It has the 
positioning rings at the hips, a chest ring for suspension, and a fall 
arrest ring in the back. You have all sorts of options here. It's safer 
than the simple old lineman's belt because you have a second, fall arrest 
lanyard that is attached to the tower in addition to your positioning 
lanyard. However, with this design, the fall arrest D-ring is on the back, 
between your shoulder blades, and the fall arrest lanyard is longer and 
less convenient to work with. If you do fall, you won't go far, but you 
will be jerked around more violently than the shorter cowtails arrangement 
that connects in the front.


OK, now that you have a good harness, on to lanyards. Here are the three 
most useful types:

1. A cowtails lanyard, attached in the front, with two, 20-30" tails and 
two hooks, that you use to hook yourself in 100% of the time you are 
above the ground. Imagine the shape of the letter "V": the bottom 
vertex of the "V" connects to your front suspension ring, and the two 
free ends connect to whatever you are suspended from. This lanyard is 
similar to the one used by rock climbers, mountaineers, and cavers, 
where the term originated, except that both legs are the same length. 
Typically you would make your own from a good quality, `dynamic' 
(stretching) climbing rope, and use 3, readily available, locking 
carabiners for the attachment points, tied on using figure-eight knots. 
When you use this lanyard properly, alternating the hook points in a 
leapfrog method as you move up or down, you can't fall more than a few 
inches if you slip or lose your grip, limiting the shock and injury 
potential to a minimum.

2. A fall arrest lanyard, attached in the back, having a single, 36-72" 
line and hook that is designed to slowly break your fall. Typically, it 
is constructed with fan-folded, stitched web that rips open in a 
controlled way to absorb the energy of your fall as it pulls tight. 
Obviously, its shock absorption capability is destroyed by any fall and 
must be replaced. These cannot be homebrewed, are harder to find, but 
are available commercially. If you lose your grip you will fall far 
enough to develop enough momentum for a serious jerk! Keep it clipped 
as far overhead as possible to minimize your fall.

3. A positioning lanyard. This is a single line, 30-40" long, fixed or 
adjustable, having a hook at each end. The positioning lanyard goes 
around or through the object you are climbing and clips on to the D-
rings at your hips to steady your torso while you are working. This is 
the lanyard most people are familiar with, the strap that linemen and 
loggers use to place around a pole or tree. These are readily available 
commercially, but are most easily homebrewed with a length of `static' 
(non-stretching) climbing rope and carabiners, tied on using figure-
eight knots. You can make more than one with different lengths 
inexpensively, for use with different size towers.


 Carabiners are the handiest devices for climbers. They are sort like an 
oversized, oval-shaped single link of chain, where one side of the link is 
hinged to allow it to open and form a hook, and then snap closed again. The 
swinging portion is called the gate. Carabiners come in a variety of 
shapes, and fall into two basic classes: locking and non-locking. The 
locking variety use a small threaded, or spring loaded ferrule that screws 
over the joint in the gate to prevent it from opening if the carabiner is 
pressed against another object.
  You should always use the locking type carabiners for your personal 
safety lanyards. One particularly fast type of locking carabiner uses a 
spring-loaded ferrule that releases the gate only after a quarter-turn 
twist. This type can be opened very quickly with a simple, but deft move of 
the fingers of one hand to both rotate the ferrule, and press the gate open 
in the same movement, yet remain immune to accidental openings after 
locking. This type is called the auto-locking carabiner, and is 
particularly well suited to personal lanyards. My favorite auto-locking 
carabiner, which uses the above twist-locking scheme, is the HMS Munter 
Auto-lock by Omega (available from Rock `n' Rescue).
  Non-locking carabiners are handy for hooking ropes, loads, and gear 
together. They're faster and far more trustworthy than a hasty knot tied by 
an inexperienced person on your ground crew. Miniature carabiners are also 
handy only for hooking small tools to your harness for work up the tower.


When you work on your tower, you need a combination of two lanyards: the 
cowtails or fall arrest lanyard to keep you hooked in while climbing, and 
the positioning lanyard. Don't be tempted to use a positioning lanyard by 
itself and simply drag it up the tower as you climb. Although it is safer 
than free climbing, if you lose your grip or foothold, you can still slide 
all the way down to the next antenna, guy attachment point, or the ground, 
whichever comes first, gathering momentum and most likely injuring yourself 
as you try to grab back onto the tower.
  Even worse yet, DO NOT FREE CLIMB if you can possibly avoid it! It's fast 
and very tempting. As far as climbing a tower, when you climb with no 
safety equipment attached to the tower, it is known as "free climbing". In 
the workplace, it is illegal per OSHA rules to free climb and you're 
supposed to be attached to the tower 100% of the time. Since people working 
on their own towers or anyone doing tower work for free are not subject to 
OSHA rules, your own method is up to you. Don't take unnecessary risks! 
Imagine having a dizzy spell or muscle cramp coming down a tower - you want 
to be attached at all times. Although climbing with lanyards is much 
slower, you are **so** much safer. If you are in a hurry, then you 
shouldn't climb anyway. It's a compromise you can live with.

 When you climb up with a fall arrest lanyard, start by hooking it above 
you. Climb up above the hook, stop, reach down, unhook the lanyard, re-hook 
it above you, and repeat. Notice that you are hooked most of the time but 
not while you are repositioning the hook. When you need a rest, you must 
hold on with one arm while you set your positioning lanyard around or 
through the tower, and hook it before you can lean back and fully rest. 
However, if your fall arrest harness is not too long, and is connected in 
the front, center, you can simply climb down or bend your knees to transfer 
your weight to the lanyard, and "sit" in your harness to rest.

When you climb up with cowtails, start by hooking one tail above you. Climb 
up above the first tail, hook the second tail above you, reach down, unhook 
the first tail, and repeat. Notice now that you are hooked **100%** of the 
time, even while you are repositioning each hook. When you need a rest, 
simply bend your knees to transfer your weight to the upper tail and you 
can "sit" to rest at a moment's notice!

**********  END EXTRACTED TEXT **********


Jim Idelson K1IR

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>