The winter months can be grueling for even the most experienced climbing professionals, and this is especially the case for tower climbers. Required to scale towers anywhere from 200 to 500 feet high, these workers get exposed to temperatures that those on the ground can’t even fathom. It’s crucial that they protect themselves from these additional weather hazards without compromising their ability to do their jobs. If you’re a tower climber preparing to take on a long winter, make sure you utilize these tips for tower climbing during extreme cold conditions.
Because of the temperature differences between the tower’s base and its top, many climbers don’t entirely understand how cold it can get until they start climbing. While you might feel accustomed to wearing your jeans and long-sleeved shirts during a climb, this attire won’t quite cut it when dealing with winter weather. Not only do these clothes fail to provide enough warmth to fight off frost bite, but they also collect the moisture from your sweat and further cool you down. It’s for these reasons that you’ll need to wear breathable materials that are also thick enough to trap your body heat.
It’s not enough to dress in layers and wear the right fabrics—it’s also crucial that you take care to reduce direct skin exposure to the frigid air. This includes covering areas with limited blood circulation such as your fingers, nose, and ears. Since tower climbers need to also have the ability to grip their tools, it’s recommended that you use heavy, insulated gloves with effective gripping pads. You should also keep in mind that these additional layers of clothing can affect how your harness secures to your body. This means you’ll have to adjust your equipment to accommodate the extra padding and to properly support your body weight.
Pack Additional Heating Supplies
In addition to your warm winter gear, it’s also often beneficial to equip yourself with other warming tools to help maintain your body temperature. These items include hand warmers, fog-proof goggles, and even pocket heaters to offer a moment’s reprieve. Fortunately, while this extra equipment will take up some of your bag space, many of them are light enough to not cause you excess strain.
Though most of your attention goes toward keeping yourself warm, it’s also important to bring along heating tools for your equipment. Many tools are constructed of metals that become brittle when exposed to the cold for prolonged periods. Tower climbers are advised to bring heat guns with them to keep their tools at a usable temperature.
Know the Symptoms of Frostbite and Hypothermia
Unfortunately, frostbite and hypothermia increase in possibility for individuals working out in the cold for long periods of time. Tower climbers, in particular, are at an increased risk because the steel tower itself can sap away your body heat quicker than expected. Knowing the initial symptoms of these conditions and how to respond to them can save your life.
When frostbite begins, it’s generally identified by a pins and needles sensation followed by numbness of the afflicted areas. You could also feel a throbbing or aching of joints, which further indicate a problem. As the frostbitten skin freezes, it will become hard, pale, and feel very cold when touched. If left to persist, frostbite can further lower your core body temperature and cause shivers characteristic of early hypothermia.
Keep Yourself Hydrated
Another crucial tip for tower climbing during extreme cold conditions is to maintain your body’s hydration levels. Though you won’t sweat as much in the winter as you would in warmer weather, the dry winter air can still dehydrate you at a startling rate. Once you’re dehydrated, your body becomes weakened and more susceptible to injury. It’s for these reasons that it’s important to continuously drink water and keep yourself strong on the job.
Stay in Constant Contact with Your Team
Conditions can get windy when you’re 200 feet above the ground in the winter. This wind can reduce your hearing capabilities and make it difficult to hear communications from your team. It’s important that you keep your radio in a place that’s close enough to your ears so that you notice any communications. Since radios, like your tools, can also become brittle in the cold, you should also make sure it stays warm enough to use.
Prepare a Rescue Plan Before the Climb
Having a rescue plan in place in case of an emergency helps preserve the entire team’s safety. Especially in the unpredictable winter weather, conditions can take a turn for the worse with little notice and give you precious seconds to react. With the plan and gear ready ahead of time, this will provide every worker with the knowledge and ability to act without hesitation. Since there’s no telling when a rescue might need to take place, it’s important that each team member knows every detail of the plan and how to respond.
Know Your Physical Limits
When you’re climbing in extremely cold conditions, it’s only a matter of time before you reach your physical limits. Eventually fatigue will grip you and make you more susceptible to injury, the development of frostbite, and hypothermia. Since the job requires you to be at 100 percent at all times, it’s important that you know how to recognize when you aren’t at that level. Calling it quits when the temperature drops too low can ultimately prevent a variety of additional hazards for you and your team.
Tower climbers don’t get to take an off season—even in the most hazardous of conditions. Therefore, it’s important for you to have all the equipment you need to keep you safe during the harsh winter months. At Midwest Unlimited, your safety and comfort are important to us. Our goal is to supply you with a variety of tools to help you work through any hazard at any point throughout the year. In addition to tower and linemen climbing belts, our stock also contains equipment designed to reduce the safety risk in a series of dangerous scenarios.