Safety Climbs - Are they safe?

Discussion in 'Incident and Near Miss Discussions' started by Wally Reardon, May 18, 2010.

  1. Wally Reardon

    Wally Reardon Friend of the Community

    I heard couple stories recently from climbers who are questioning safety climbs on towers. One lost his life due to a device malfunction the climber was using provided by his employer. This particular device has fallen into scrutiny in the UK and Europe for malfunctions that have resulted in other fatal injuries. The device had a tendency to roll out which resulted in this fall. I haven't been able to get very intricate detail yet because the case is still in litigation and the person sharing this with me was trying to be careful.

    The second climber was slightly injured when the safety climb cable worked out of the stand-off at the top of the monopole. From what the climber was told, the cable tends to twist out of the grab device sometimes.

    I rarely trusted safety climbs to work from as a positioning device myself, but on some poles I would use it to hang dish mounts, boom mounts, and running lines. I have seen as many as three to four climbers working off the same safety climb device on monopoles (I don't know why, but I saw it with my own eyes in total disbelief). That caused me to question whether that was safe or not, since the device to fall into compliance would need to hold 15-20,000lbs. Is this correct to assume?

    I don't climb anymore but these stories got me thinking about how trusting I have been with these devices in the past. I know they tend to loosen (especially on poles that have slip-joints). It only takes a minute to tighten a loose climb up. Has anyone here had a problem or heard of problems like these?
  2. Fred  Heim

    Fred Heim Friend of the Community

    There is an alternative to the safety climb cable although it is not yet available. This is a machine and not a static device. It works something like an old fashioned manlift with a counterweight. After you attach yourself to the line, it responds to changes in tension. As you begin to move up, the device operates to help take most of you but then stops when you stop. It does much the same thing coming down but because it is a machine, it will only operate at a pre-set maximum speed. The same device that makes climbing easier may also be used as a regular winch to rasie equipment. A demonstration is available on youtube: Thank you.
  3. Chas  Wagner

    Chas Wagner Industry Observer

    The safety climb is often loaded beyond its expected load or rating. I would say likely each time a project takes place. How many times have you seen two or more climbers headed up connected to the same cable?

    Or as Wally posted, even working from it. I used to be a Sr. PM at one of the bigger contractor / owners and we were aware of this. We required that only one man be connected to it at a time meaning the climbers had to climb in stages.

    Climber 1 would hook off to the tower and unhook from it while the next climber in line was moving and connected and then they would switch back. This practice is a good one, but I'm pretty sure that some guys were partially compliant and it was often only taking place when a PM was on site.

    What we did do that was effective though was each of our crewmen had his own chokers or endless slings to choke around the monopoles for positioning.

    You can even buy anchorage straps to choke over tower members made specifically for this. These were used along individual fall arrest lines because we did not want them depending on the safety climb cable during work.

    It's a poor practice. Anyway, these were intended for work positioning and the crewmen could choke them above the work area and when properly rendered they didn't slide down much [pegs help that too] .

    This type of equipment is rarely seen today though as the chokers and endless kevlar slings rated for this are costly and like other rigging need to be replaced occasionally.

    Proper equipment, whether safety or tooling, is simply a cost of doing business and it seems these days there are many under equipped crews performing a lot of the work.
  4. Todd Thorin

    Todd Thorin Friend of the Community

    Safety climbs (LadSafe at least) can be installed to accommodate up to four climbers at once. The problem is the information plaque that tells you the system capacity which should be installed at the bottom of the ladder is most often missing. So you can't tell until you see the top mounting brackets, if you know what to look for. More disconcerting to me is the 1700' ladder with a system that's been up and unseen for a few seasons, has been iced up, blown out of the rubber holders, flapping in the breeze, wrapped around feedlines and members. In those scenarios the system is useless to us until its been inspected top to bottom.
  5. terryschoen

    terryschoen Friend of the Community

  6. kwolff

    kwolff First Time Poster

    There is good reason to question a safety climb now days not just on a broadcast tower but especially on a cell carrier. A lot of the problems that I see are caused not by weather but the climbers themselves.

    How many climbers have actually had proper training with this piece of equipment? I know when I first started climbing I was given a belt and lanyards along with a safety climb and told just put it on the cable and climb.

    One of the biggest problems I see is climbers using the safety climb as a tie off point it was never intended for this but only as a second chance device the same as a fall arrest is. Not only does it loosen up because of a slip joint settling but hanging loads off or using them to run lines and as tie off points stretch the cable.

    Think about it, would you put a cable climb on your wire rope load line and pick a load then take it off and see the kink in your cable and continue to use that load line?

    Not only does this damage the cable but also the internal of the unit at the top depending on the manufacture. I have seen a crew try to lift a load on the safety climb only to have the cable pull out of the termination at the top and wreck the antenna they where lifting.

    We all know that a safety climb on a self supporting or guyed tower is not going to slack off because of the tower settling. This is self problematic and we need to make sure that the new climbers understand how to properly use a safety climb and that those of use with experience do not continue to pass on bad habits like lifting loads or using them as tie off points.

    I myself use a first man up system as that the first climber takes a heavy endless choker or two depending on the amount of work and personnel that will be conducting the work. Once up they rig this with a 5/8" rope to be used as a vertical life line for the rest of the climbers to follow.

    Once at work height they will either use the life lines or personally I prefer to rigg another endless chocker and use a self retracting life line as it gives me room to move and I do not have to worry about continually moving hooks or running out of length on my fall arrest.

    I also make sure that I have at least 2-3 extra safety climbs with me as they do fowl up from debris or just plain wear. I do not let the guys work on any of the safety equipment and would rather spend the money to have extra on hand and send any equipment with problems back to the manufacture to be checked as it is not worth the cost of a life to find out it was something that could have easily been corrected.

    I fully understand the cost of things but what price do you put on someone's life?

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