Free Climbing of Transmission Towers:To Attach or Not Attach –An Examination of the Case for Change

Updated: Sep 8

To a background of change internationally, and increasing attention from OSH, the industry is re-examining the safety of traditional free climbing of power line structures. Of the available attachment methods for towers, trials show the dual lanyard technique is the most practical. However this method comes with some significant disadvantages, not the least of which is an increased injury hazard due to added complexity. A detailed study has shown there are no known cases of a properly trained line worker falling from a tower while using permanent climbing steps, over an estimated 3.3 million structure ascents. This makes the climb / descend process an extraordinary safe work activity. It also introduces the great difficulty that any change to current practice may impact adversely. However falls are continuing to occur during “positioning” on the structure, and when attaching at the work position. Therefore a partial attachment policy with the following general characteristics has been recommended for transmission line towers: • Climbing workers to be fully trained and tested for competency. • Workers not climbing or descending on permanent climbing steps, to be attached at all times when above 3m from ground level. • Prior to free climbing, a risk assessment process is to be followed to determine if there are special circumstances, which elevate climbing fall risk. If the risk is significantly higher than normal, attachment would then be mandatory. The position with regards to climbing poles is to be the subject of a separate EEA study.

-Wal Marshall

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