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Tower Safety and

Lightning Prevention

William C. Williams

©1997 William C. Williams Iread Dan Whitehead’s article about living with wind

machines (HP #57) with great interest. There are,

however, some safety issues that I feel need to be addressed. This is not meant to be a criticism, I’m writing this to share my expertise.

I have been a tower rigger (Steeplejack) for close to 25 years and I have climbed over 725 miles (one way) on towers. I have worked atop a 2,380 foot tower. At those heights you start climbing at about midnight to be at the top by sun up.

I have also seen nineteen people die on towers. Eleven of those fell out of their safety belts and two fell while climbing. Actually one fell and the other guy tried to catch the first. The impact severed the second man’s lanyard (stressed to over 1,500 pounds). Recently in Texas, three men were killed when a 1,520 foot tall tower collapsed while they were working on it.

The point is, tower work is not place for minimum safety. The following are some things that you may want to be aware of.

1. Safety belts are often recommended. But, safety belts are not OSHA accepted and are subject to failure. Safety belts lost their OSHA blessing in 1995. Full body harnesses have never, to my knowledge, slipped when properly maintained and worn. Harnesses also provide an opportunity to assume a sitting position, taking weight off your legs. Fatigue is your number one enemy on towers.

2. Tennis shoes are inappropriate on a tower. Paragraph 25.G.06 of the Occupational Safety and Health Industrial Guidelines manual recommends that soft sole shoes and shoes that offer minimal ankle support never be worn on towers. The reason is that tired or sore feet are a distraction and compromise safety.

3. Always inspect the tower on the way up, not on the way down. Should there be a hardware problem, it needs to be addressed before your weight adds to the tower’s total load.

4. When climbing, always keep three points in contact with the tower. Never move more than one hand or one foot at any instant. When a person is moving up or down a tower it tends to bounce. This bouncing causes the tower members to be stressed in directions it was not designed for. Take an active role in minimizing the bouncing, even on guyed towers.

5. While working on the tower, always do the task in your mind before you begin with your hands. Think it out thoroughly before beginning.

Left: Willaim C. Williams on a 300 foot, three bay, FM transmitter antenna tower. Note the Static Discharge Arrays (SDAs) at the tower’s top and at mid tower.

40 Home Power #62 • December 1997 / January 1998

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