[TowerTalk] re: Safety belts, etc (summary)

Lowell, Mark mlowell@noclant.navy.mil
Mon, 23 Nov 98 15:47:39 -0400

>Robert L. Shohet (kq2m@mags.net)
>Sun, 22 Nov 1998 04:24:48 -0800

> 1) Are the Buckingham and Weaver belts adequate for tower work (Rohn 45
> and larger)?  If not, specifically WHAT belt would you recommend and
> why?  (I am 5'11", about 212 lbs. and have a size 40 waist)
> 2) Regarding lanyards and "gorilla hooks", which manufacturers would you
> recommend and why?  What lengths should I get?  Approximate cost?
> 3) Anything else that I should consider? (I have a hard hat already and
> will buy steel-shank boots). I have ruled out safety harnesses based on
> unhappy experiences that others have had.
> As always, your comments, thoughts and experiences are most appreciated!
> 73
> Bob KQ2M

Hello Bob!
 I have been researching the tower climbing gear issue and the following
should be helpful. I will only post this once, since it is long, but of
general interest to all. In the future see


 or the new FAQ's page under construction for the Towertalk Reflector.


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
"cowstails", 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 periods.

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
http://petzl.com and their technical reference page at

 You will have to download their work/rescue catalog supplement in PDF
format from http://www.petzl.com/work/work.html 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 cowstails 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 cowstails 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


 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
  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
cowswtails 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. 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. 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" to rest.

When you climb up with cowstails, 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!


The venerable bowline has, heretofore, probably been the most widely used
knot, for forming a loop. However, the figure-eight knot is now generally
accepted as the knot of choice for those who trust their lives to rope in
fire, rescue, and recreational climbing activities. The figure-eight knot
is easier for most people to tie, has a larger bend-radius (stronger), is
more resistant to self-untying, and yet is easier to untie than the bowline
after strain-tightening. Use the figure-eight to tie ropes off to objects,
form loops in the ends of ropes, attach carabiners, or for a stopper knot
on the free end of a rope.
 Along with the figure-eight, the prussic knot is also indispensable. It is
related to the taut-line hitch and has a remarkable capacity to grab onto a
vertical rope, pipe or mast without slipping. The knot will not slip when
tension is applied to the free loop, yet, it can be slid back and forth
easily by pushing directly on the knot itself. A prussic loop is a 12-18"
diameter  loop of smaller, 6mm cord, formed by tying the ends of a single
piece (around 48" long) together using fisherman's knots, forming a simple
rope ring. Make up several prussic loops and keep them on hand. Grab a loop
and tie it around the rope or pipe or mast you want to lock onto, for the
prussic knot, and use the resulting short loop as an attachment point for
your carabiner. This technique is extremely useful, for instance, to set a
pully on your mast to use for tramming an antenna or other hauling
purposes, where there are no braces to hook a carabiner. You can also use
the prussic to anchor your cowstail or fall arrest lanyard.

Here are a couple of excellent places on the web to learn how to tie these
useful knots and more:

The Cave Training Manual:

The Roper's Knots Page:

Two good places to purchase harnesses, ropes, carabiners, and other
climbing gear:

REI outdoors

Inner Mountain Outfitters

Gloucester, VA

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