Rick Karlquist wrote:
> Question for you experts: if it is forbidden to free climb
> a tower, why is it OK to free climb a ladder? Not trying
> to argue, just curious. I never climb towers, but often
> climb ladders. I keep asking myself why I should feel
> so safe on a ladder. (It is somewhat easier to fall
> off a tower, admittedly).
Tradition often has a lot to do with rulemaking. As does the number of
people doing the activity. Lots of ladders, few towers.
Think of this.. if you were to propose a new kind of power source for
motor vehicles, and you said you were going to have thousands of
essentially unattended power transfer stations where millions of
essentially untrained people (some impaired by
drugs/alcohol/tiredness/plain old idiocy) would pump 15 gallons of an
extremely flammable fuel containing several potent toxins and
carcinogens. And the transfer mechanism is little different than a
garden hose with a hand nozzle. And you'd be able to pump that stuff
into a plastic bucket, if you liked.
Yeah, sure, you'd be laughed out of whatever venue you're proposing it in.
Last year, at work, there was a big ladder safety training initiative.
(this is characteristically NASA.. turns out that ladder related
accidents are pretty high up on the list of causes, as in #1, I think.
So, we have procedures, training, haven't had ladder certification
requirements yet, but I'm sure it's coming.
here's the ladder procedural requirement from Ames Research Center
It varies among centers somewhat.. Ames says don't use the top 3 steps,
KSC says just the top 2 are verboten. Maybe Floridians, being used to
hurricanes and danger in general are more risk tolerant? Maybe Ames is
covering their bets on a seismic event during ladder use? I guarantee
that many work-hours have been expended on generating and promulgating
And, lest someone gripe about the procedure-happiness of NASA, it's a
common feature of large organizations:
1) something goes wrong while doing an activity
2) someone important says "something must be done" (Congress does this a
3) A rational examination says that "not doing the activity" isn't
feasible, so it becomes, "what can we do that will make it safer OR at
the very least, address item #2"
4) Further examination shows that event #1 was just bad luck, and
there's no reasonable modification of procedures that would change things
5) So, the decision is made to just "document what we do, and, if
possible find someone else's recommendations to add"
6) some poor schlub gets the job of writing it up.
#6, unfortunately, is sometimes a mechanism for giving someone a job who
would be dangerous performing the activity being proceduralized. Maybe
they're the person who actually was responsible for #1.
But, realistically, there are stacks of OSHA rules about ladder usage too.
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