Electricity and communications are often taken for granted. It has become so common in society today that when we go home and log on, no thought goes into the effort taken to generate electricity, transfer electricity, and to get it into the homes of billions of people. For tower climbers, who keep our communications systems running, electricity is a daily part of the job. They must put extra emphasis on protecting themselves, especially the head and the hands.
To protect the hands there isn’t just one pair of gloves that will serve all purposes. For the climb, gloves need a better grip. When it comes to working with electricity though, it is always better to be prepared. A tower may be turned down to limit the impact of RF waves, but anytime there is electricity, it pays to be cautious.
There are five classes of voltage protection on gloves. The highest rating is Class 4, these carry a maximum voltage use of 36000V AC and are proof tested to 40000V AC. From there, it goes to Class 3 which have a maximum voltage rating of 26500V AC and a proof testing of 30000V AC. Class 2 can be used for up to 17000V AC/ 20000V AC proof tested. Class 1 is rated for 7500V AC with a 10000V proof test. Finally, there is class 0 which can be used for 1000V AC or less and are proof tested to 5000V AC.
The class of the gloves should not be ignored. Death can be caused by electricity, when you add in being over 500 feet in the air, it will equal almost certain death. Even “slight shocks” should not be ignored as they can lead to permanent nerve damage over time.
The gloves designed to withstand electrical shocks are rubber insulated. They are made from either a natural or synthetic non-conductive rubber. This rubber is specially designed to prevent the electrical currents from entering into the body. They will be specifically labelled, so if a glove looks like it is made from rubber, never assume it is one of the ratings listed above.
Just like shopping for climbing gloves and work gloves, fit is important. If your fingers are too long for the gloves then they could rip without being noticed and thus, lose their protective abilities. When using insulated gloves, they should be worn with a good quality leather glove. This prevents scrapes, scratches, and holes from developing in the insulated gloves. This is why they can not be too big on the hands.
It can be tempting to not wear gloves for smaller projects, but this is a serious judgment error. Yes, gloves are usually uncomfortable and limit finger dexterity. When you look at the thousands of people who end up in the hospital, or the morgue, every year because they were not properly equipped, then a little discomfort does not seem like such a big deal.
Even when the day is over, those household repairs require the equivalent amount of protection. It is important to remember that just because the work day is over, does not mean safety can get left behind.