Canadian Tower Climbers

tower climbers in canadaA large portion of the tower climbers in the United States are from Canada. Canada also has a thriving tower climbing industry. After all, there are many cell phone towers in the Canadian provinces. The biggest difference between what tower climbers do in the United States and what tower climbers do in the United States is the environment in which they work.

In case it has escaped anyone’s attention, Canada is generally colder than most of the US. And unlike the United States there are places in Canada which are far from habitable to the average human. The majority of cell towers in Canada reside in the southern provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec. This sounds like a lot of territory, and to some extant it is, but the upper reaches of Canada are left largely out of the cell tower equation.

This being said, it does not mean that provinces like the Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories do not have cell phone towers, but the further was goes into the northern parts of Canada, the fewer that are found. These individual towers still need to be maintained and tested on a regular basis. The job of a tower climber is already dangerous but in the cold, sweeping Canadian winds, extra precautions must be taken.

In a place like Nunavut, several of the towers can only be reached by a combination of boat, plane, and/or dogsled. This is an arctic travel destination for many tourists, but for a tower climber it means weeks away from their families in the arctic circle. It also means seeing a part of the world which few have ever laid eyes on. The sense of adventure inspires many to tackle the climb in these extreme environments.
Another difference between tower climbing in Canada and the US is that while the US has citizens who speak different languages while the official language remains English. In the Canadian province of Quebec the official language is French. In New Brunswick both English and French are the official languages. For those working within these two provinces, they will be expected to be fluent in French, plain and simple. Even in the other provinces, those who speak French will be common business associates.

In the US, there is a Federal regulatory agencies which governs the rules and requirements for tower climbers. So, if a tower climber previously worked in Texas and moved to Massachusetts, there would be training for the new company but they would not have to relearn the rules and regulations pertaining to their job.

In Canada, each province has their own regulations and bodies which govern tower climbers. If a tower climber moves from the province of Quebec to British Columbia, it may require them to receive recertification before they can begin work. Also, if a tower climber moves from Canada to the US or vice versa, they will need to re-attain certifications. Even so, there are some things, like common sense, that are universal and will apply to the job no matter where someone works.

Tower Climber Equipment – Anchors

Tower Climber Equipment - AnchorsWhen anchors are used in conjunction with proper knots, they are an added line of defense which prevents accidents from happening on the climb. Anchors are reusable, they can be drilled and filled as needed for placement. They can be placed horizontally, vertically and even on overhead services as is required for the safety of the climber.

There are several types of anchors which are used by different types of climbers. Natural anchors are those that do not require any man made assistance. These are mostly found in the rock climbing field, but they may also be found on towers themselves in the form of protrusions. Artificial anchors are spring loaded and designed to fit into cracks where they will then expand.

Belay anchors are mounted. The belay anchors used by tower climbers will be permanently attached to a tower. This saves the extra effort of having to drill and place new anchors each time a climb is undertaken. It is also federally mandated for the safety of each climber. They are used as a support for a top rope and it should consist of multiple redundant components. These components are fail safes, designed to provide support should one of the other components fail.
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Choosing A Tower Climber Bag

With all of the emphasis placed on helmets, harnesses, carabineers, and footwear the bag chosen to hold tools often gets put on the back burner. After all, it is just a bad right? Well yes and no. It may be a bag, but on a climb the tower climber bag is what makes sure that all of the tools needed for the job make it up with you. There is no point in doing the job, if the required tools are 1000 feet down.

There are several different option when it comes to bags; canvas buckets, tool organizers, pouches and traditional equipment bags. Each has their own benefits, but in the end it is a decision each tower climber has to make.

Canvas buckets are exactly what the sound like. They are a flexible canvas bucket that is open on one end. Frequently there are internal pockets or straps for smaller items. They are durable and offer a single strap to connect to a rope. Something to be aware of is that since they don’t seal, there is always a chance that something will fall out. When carrying heavy equipment, this risk is minimized as the weight adds stability.

Tool organizers come in the open end variety and the type with various zippers and pockets. Some will even have detachable pockets for phones, radios, miscellaneous items, and parts. Specialized versions exist for protecting the more expensive equipment and will have a Y lanyard for 100% tie off. Since these range from generic to specialty it is best to consider the equipment most frequently needed when looking into the purchase of a tool organizer.
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Types of Climbing Harnesses

types of climbing harnessesThere are three types of climbing harness. A sit harness is just what it sounds like. There are loops for the legs and loops around the hips. Sometimes used in conjunction with the sit harness is the chest harness which provides extra support when hauling a heavy backpack. These two types don’t transfer well to tower climbers, they are mainly used by rock climbers.

The type of harness tower climbers will need to be familiar with is the full body harness. It is covered more in depth in another article on proper harness fit. It is a combination of the sit harness and the chest harness. These two sections may be either permanently or semi-permanently attached together. It will have many connection points. The basic idea of the full body harness will remain the same, but when it comes to material choice, there are many pros and cons for each.
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Insulated Tower Climbing Gloves

Insulated Tower Climbing GlovesElectricity 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.
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OSHA and Tower Climbers – Who Should Hold Blame?

OSHA and Tower Climbers - Who Should Hold Blame?

Tower climbing has been named the number one most dangerous job in America .  The annual death rate of tower workers is more than ten times that of construction workers.  There are about 10,000 of these guys working on our cell and other tall towers, and they’re dying at an alarming rate.

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) finally caught wind of this development and began to try to take action to alleviate the situation in 2014.  What they found was that the workers who build these towers for larger companies, such as AT&T and Verizon, were hired through subcontractors rather than directly.  There was no way to file a lawsuit with the corporation itself. But where does the fault really lie in the end? On the contractor that was furthest down the chain of other subcontractors?

The issue here may be a lack of intimacy and understanding of the situation.  Jordan Barab, OSHA’s deputy administrator, reported that they had, “had a number of situations where [they thought] that accidents were caused by companies trying to meet deadlines and…cutting corners on safety in order to meet those deadlines”.
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Tower Climbing Helmet Fit and Maintenance

tower climbing helmet maintenanceYour helmet is one accessory that you will practically live in. It will be worn everyday, in the heat, in the cold, in every condition imaginable. Unlike a pair of shoes, your helmet will not “break in,” it’s straps may loosen with use, but it is industrial and not exactly designed for comfort. Your helmet can still be semi comfortable though, if you get the proper fit.

First, understand that not all helmets are created the same. The straps on the inside of the helmet may be a little higher set, while on others it is lower. It sounds a bit odd, but think about the shape of your head when buying. Since work helmets sit on top of the head and do not encompass it, take notice if your ears protrude a great deal or if your head is bigger or smaller than average.
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Caring for Your RF Meter

Extech-480836-35GHz-RF-EMF-Strength-Meter-0-0With the everything that happens in day to day life, it can be difficult to take proper care of all the equipment that has been used. While you are hanging your harness, dusting your boots, and throwing your gloves in your locker, the RF meter is often forgotten. This is a vital piece of equipment. 99.9% of the time a tower will be emitting zero to low amounts of radio frequency, but you don’t want your meter failing that one time.

Cleaning- Just like all the other equipment you take with you on a climb, RF meters are exposed to the elements. I’m certainly not suggesting you throw such a precision piece of equipment into a tub of soapy water, but it should be brushed off if it is dropped in the dirt or mud. If dirt gets into one of the connections it may not read properly so disassemble and reassemble if you possess the skills. If you do not possess the required skills then take it to a professional. Never remove any pieces you are unsure of, even if you did rebuild your Nintendo growing up.
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Basic Guide to Tower Climbing Equipment

basic guide to tower climbing equipmentWith all the types of equipment needed for a tower climber to effectively do their job, it seems like a lot of back and forth can happen. Comparing websites with different information can be a headache, so here is the cliff notes version, a sort of “cheat sheet” if you will that tells you the most vital information at a glance.

Helmets:

The most important factor when deciding which helmet to get is the fit. To determine a proper fit place the helmet on your head and shake your head back and forth. Even without the chin strap, the helmet should not wiggle. UIAA helmets have stricter requirements for safety than CE. Store them in your locker away from direct sunlight.
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