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Climbing Rails: Modern Protection for Old Hazards

Falls from vertical working surfaces, such as tall towers, rigs, water tanks, poles, and radio or television antenna structures, are a cause of serious injury and death in the workplace. Workers can usually “tie-off” with a safety strap while at their work station on these tall structures. Workers, however, often have no protection from falls while climbing steep ladders to and from their work station on these structures.

Those responsible for the safety of tall structures often dismiss these tragic falls as unavoidable accidents. They point out that traditional fall protection measures, such as nets, platforms, or enclosed railings, are not practical or economical for protecting this type of work.

A climbing rail or cable is, however, a feasible way of preventing this type of fall. It is a rigid rail or tight cable that runs along the side or center of the ladder from the bottom to the top of the structure which the worker must climb. The worker’s body belt is attached to the rail or cable by means of a climbing device called a carrier. This carrier is designed to move freely up and down the rail or cable, but it locks the instant it senses a fall.

The carrier and climbing rail or cable are permanently attached to the structure. The carrier, however, will connect to the D-ring found on most brands of body belts worn by workers.

Tall towers and structures which must be climbed frequently for maintenance or other purposes require an adequate fall protection system. Prudent manufacturers and builders of communication towers and other tall structures will incorporate these safety devices into their products. Owners of these tall structures which do not have such climbing safety devices should consider installing them.

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