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Re: [TowerTalk] Roswell Tower Accident

To: "'Kelly Johnson'" <>,"'TowerTalk'" <>
Subject: Re: [TowerTalk] Roswell Tower Accident
From: "Dick Green WC1M" <>
Date: Thu, 25 Oct 2007 00:56:50 -0400
List-post: <>
I use a Petzl Y-lanyard specifically designed for fall arrest
( It has two
leads attached to a common shock absorber. Each lead has a large rebar hook
with a double safety latch. The common lead attaches to the D-ring on the
back of my Petzl full-body harness (Navaho Complet). I attach one hook to a
tower rung as high above my head as I can reach, and let the other hook
dangle free. I climb up until the attached hook is at about thigh level,
attach the free hook as high above my head as I can reach, then reach down
and unhook the other lead and let it dangle. So, I'm always clipped in. The
process is slow and sometimes tiring for my left hand. I used to clip the
free hook to one of my belt D-rings while climbing, but found the extra
hook/unhook sequences hastened hand fatigue. The dangling hook is easy to
grab and doesn't get in the way. After quite a few climbs, I've gotten used
to the rhythm and my hand strength has improved.

When I reach the work position, I attach both hooks as high above my head as
I can. When possible, I attach them to different points on the tower. I then
unhook one side of my positioning lanyard, pass it through the tower (not
around it), making sure it passes over horizontal rungs without being
pinched, and clip it to my belt. Passing the lanyard through the tower
ensures that I won't slip down the tower if I lose my footing. Yes, it means
I have to restring or adjust the lanyard if I move up or down more than one
step, but the extra margin of safety is worth it. One might ask why I do
this when I have the fall-arrest lanyards in place, and the answer is that a
fall-arrest lanyard should not be used for fall-prevention. It's a fail-safe
device, to be called into play only under dire circumstances. Even if the
fall-arrest lanyard's shock-absorber works perfectly, you can be injured
when it pulls you up short. Fall-prevention is the job of the positioning

I use an adjustable positioning lanyard that I bought from K7LXC several
years ago. I don't know if Steve still sells them, but I really like it.
It's made of heavy, flat nylon webbing, with an adjustment buckle in the
middle and two double safety latch gorilla hooks for attachment to the side
D-rings on my full-body harness. Most of the time I use it in the fully
retracted configuration (about 6' in length), but every now and then I
extend it. This is especially helpful when working around TIC rings, at the
top of the tower, and when I need to lean out from the tower to reach
something down an antenna boom. 

I also have a short positioning lanyard I made from a 6" length of man-rated
rock-climbing strap with a man-rated safety latch carabiner at each end. One
carabiner is clipped to the seat D-ring on my full-body harness. This ring
is at about belly-button level and is the attachment point when using the
harness in the seat configuration. The other carabiner clips to my chest
D-ring to keep it out of the way. The purpose of this positioning lanyard is
to let me quickly clip on when I need to. For example, if I get tired while
climbing, I can clip the short lanyard to a rung much more quickly and with
less effort than stringing the adjustable positioning lanyard through the
tower. When I get to a work position, sometimes I use the short lanyard so I
can free both hands for threading the adjustable lanyard through the  tower.
Finally, I often clip the short lanyard to the tower while at a work
position for any length of time. That gives me four attachment points: the
two ends of the Y-lanyard for fall arrest, and the two positioning lanyards.
I feel pretty safe when clipped in that way. 

The recent accident certainly was on my mind as I climbed to 90' on my tower
today. I always try to be careful, but perhaps was doubly so today. I feel
just terrible for the family, and couldn't help thinking how difficult it
would be for my wife and two young children if I had a tower climbing
accident. It's a sobering thought. But I'm still convinced that if proper
safety precautions are taken, and you don't do stupid things, and you don't
rush, towers can be climbed safely.

The reports suggest that the ham in question was using his positioning
lanyard to prevent a fall while climbing the tower, and had to disengage it
to get past the guys. The positioning lanyard should never be used for
fall-arrest. First, it doesn't provide a positive stop -- under some
circumstances it can slip down the tower during the fall. Second, it has no
shock absorbing capability. The only worse thing is to free-climb, which
should absolutely never be done. I've been tempted to free-climb when
pressed for time, but have resisted. It's never worth taking chances with
your life on a tower. 

My only other comment on the accident is that it doesn't do any good to wear
a full-body harness if you don't use a properly attached fall-arrest lanyard
with it.

73, Dick WC1M

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Kelly Johnson []
> Sent: Wednesday, October 24, 2007 8:25 PM
> To: TowerTalk
> Subject: Re: [TowerTalk] Roswell Tower Accident
> My climbing experience is limited to heights of about 30 feet or so,
> but regardless I'd like to understand the proper way of climbing up a
> tower while remaining connected at all times.  When people start their
> climb at the ground, how do they attach to the tower while climbing?
> Do they have a safety cable permanently mounted to the tower or do
> they clip a cable as high as they can reach, climb beyond it, clip
> another as high as they can reach, and so forth or what?
> On 10/24/07, Bill Turner <> wrote:
> >
> > On Wed, 24 Oct 2007 04:08:48 +0000, wrote:
> >
> >
> > ------------ REPLY FOLLOWS ------------
> >
> > I know you are right, but I have seen tower climbing professionals
> who
> > climb a tower with no safety line connected at all, and only hook up
> > when they are in place ready to work.
> >
> > If the professionals are so lacking in concern, what hope is there
> for
> > us amateurs? I guess after you climb a few hundred towers with no
> > accidents, you become immortal.
> >
> > My rule is to always have two connections to the tower: Either my
> > safety line plus one hand, or two safety lines. I never trust only
> one
> > safety connection, ever.
> >
> > 73, Bill W6WRT
> > _______________________________________________
> >
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > TowerTalk mailing list
> >
> >
> >


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