The Safety Strap

(Disclaimer: This presentation does not advocate, endorse, guarantee, imply nor infer any person can safely climb utility poles based solely on reading its content. It is for informational purposes only.)

The picture below illustrates the point of the previous page. Although the poleclimber is using a safety strap (not yet introduced in this discussion), one can see an imaginery line form from the tip of the shoulders, down the back, down the extended right leg to the gaff hook. 3-points of contact are maintained by the safety strap - this counts as two points - and the right leg. The left leg serves as an insurance policy against ungaffing.

Of course, with the use of the safety strap, the poleclimber is extending beyond the rule-of-thumb 30° angle. But that is O.K.; that is what the strap is for!

So, as you can see this chap below and his colleague have safely ascended to their desired height and begun their honorable labor. Once you have ascended to your desired height (the 6-foot level is the first target altitude), make certain you are in the standard stopping position: left leg extended and locked, right leg is bent; having stepped and stroked into the wood. (I am aware this is the opposite of the illustration, but these guys have maneuvered into working position. Maneuvering will be discussed on some following pages.)


Now to don the safety strap. This also involves a specific technique and several things to keep in mind. First, bear in mind today's safety equipment is the best ever, but it is not foolproof! The safety hooks themselves have only recently been redesigned to increase the margin of safety over their predecessors. The hasps that secure the hook into the rings of the safety waist belt can be easily manipulated by one hand. They also prevent the hook from accidentally grabbing the ring unintentionally. It works by a simple safety for the hasp having to be cleared before the hasp will give way. The safety mechanism is cleared when the climber exerts a firm, solid grip around the back of the hook and grabs the hasp with the fingertips.

The point is, no matter how safe the equipment is today, there are potential "gotcha's." With the safety strap, the hooks make clicking sounds and you can even feel when the hook engages into a ring. But relying on the sound of a spring-loaded hasp impacting the metal hook and the accompanying feel reverberating through your waist belt is not sufficient. You - as a climber - must be absolutely sure the hook engages in the ring completely and as it is intended to. We were taught, "Be a pro, look and know!" This means be absolutely certain by watching yourself engage the hook in the ring and give it a tug before you entrust your life to that strap.

Generally, the safety strap will be the ideal length with two (2 Qty.) eyelet holes free, counting from the end of the buckle. The belt should suspend to mid-calf level when you are standing on the ground and both hooks are secured to one belt ring. Here again, is a universal: this idle position with the safety strap requires both hooks are secured in the LEFT belt ring. The strap forms a loop this way. ALWAYS use the same hook - the one closest to the buckle - to "safety on" with your strap. The other hook should only be removed from the left ring for regular inspections. The rest of the time, it may as well be welded solidly shut.

Equally important, is the care and maintenance of the hooks and their associated safety mechanism. Don't drop or drag them on the ground. Never lubricate them with anything - not even the ubiquitous WD-40! Look for cracks and fractures in the main body. If the hooks are damaged in anyway, replace them!


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[ Welcome to Page One! | 3-Point Rule | Hand, Charlie, Stroke! | The Safety Strap | Intermission | Maneuvering, Part 1 | Maneuvering, Part 2 | Summary | Contact ]

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Last Revision Date: February 12, 2011
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