Protective gear and worker safety

Safety at work is one of those things that is often overlooked for various reasons.  Sometimes we just get into a groove and are not thinking about it.  Other times, employers can put workers in a potentially dangerous situation by ignoring regulations or insisting employees do things contrary to common sense.

For a broadcast engineer working in the field, safety can be a matter of life and death.  Transmitters, in particular, have a host of potential safety issues; high voltage, thermal burns, RF burns, revolving mechanical parts, and external things like lightning.  Transmitter sites themselves can be critter magnets, anything from bees to raccoons, bears, and even the two-legged kind.

Good general practices can go a great way in reducing injuries and downtime.  Take this young fellow here:

improperly attired worker attempting unsafe operation
improperly attired worker attempting unsafe operation

First of all, it appears he has gone to work in his pajamas, which is a no-no.  Secondly, he has the right idea, wearing safety goggles while undertaking the risky operation of cutting low-density polyethylene with a pair of hand shears, however, those look more like swim goggles.  They appear to be improperly donned.  He is using a right-handed shearing device with his left hand and the work area looks cluttered and unkempt.

Seriously, we are all responsible for ourselves.  While at work, it is important to use common sense.  I may be a wimp, but if I have a question on whether the breaker is on or off, I go check.  High-voltage power supplies offer no second chances.  Here is a list of things to be cognizant of while working at transmitter sites:

  1. Weather.  If the transmitter got knocked off the air by lightning, wait till the storm is over to fix it.  It is still coupled to the tower, even if the backup transmitter is on the air.
  2. Fall hazards.  OHSA requires fall protection for any worker working at an elevation higher than 4 feet.  Fall protection can vary CFR 29 subpart E 1926 has all the details.
  3. Falling object hazards.  Tower works have been known to drop a wrench from time to time.  A hard hat should be required whenever climbers are on the tower.  Also, I watched ice shedding from a 1000-foot TV tower practically destroy a fuel delivery truck in a matter of minutes.
  4. RF safety.  I require all tower climbers to wear personal RF alarms when climbing on any tower that has RF radiators active.  Do not work in hot ATUs or Phasors.  ATUs and Phasors should have provisions to make all necessary measurements with protective covers in place and minimally exposed RF parts.
  5. Electrical safety.  Never work alone at a transmitter site.  Turn off breakers before opening transmitter doors, do not defeat interlocks, and always discharge high voltage with a ground stick.  Hang ground stick on HV power supply output.  Tag out breakers if in a separate room from the transmitter.
  6. Critters.  Use bee spray on ATUs and other outdoor structures.  Be careful around wild animals, even mice, and mice droppings can spread disease, use hand cleaner after cleaning up mice nests.  Snakes love tuning houses, generator sheds or just about any building that is not inhabited.
  7. Generators and backup power.  Generators pose several hazards; fuel and batteries can be explosion risks, revolving parts, thermal burns, and high voltage.
  8. Access to the site.  In some areas where mountaintop transmitter sites are common, access during winter months can be tricky.

Much of this is common sense, remember, a radio station is a radio station, and there is only one you.

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12 thoughts on “Protective gear and worker safety”

  1. And wear your seatbelt when driving up and down access roads. A colleague of mine was killed driving down the mountain from the transmitter when he left the track and hit a tree. By all reports the accident was survivable, he was killed because he was ejected from the 4WD as he wasn’t wearing his seatbelt.

  2. I have to respectfully disagree with Daniel on the issue of mandatory seat belts. I happen to believe in the New Hampshire state motto; “LIVE FREE OR DIE”! Today we have BIG government mandating how to protect us from ourselves. What’s next, mandatory safety shoes to prevent bowling balls from falling on our toes while bowling? This whole seat belt scenario is not about the individual, but getting everyone “to go along to get along”, as George H.W. Bush remarked after he went along with a tax increase only a few years after his monumental speech; “Read My Lips – No new taxes”. A situation where seat belts did not help an individual occurred back in the late ’80’s when a woman while driving home during the early winter season had her vehicle slide off an icy patch on the road while turning, and crashed through the ice in a roadside lagoon. She drowned, and upon examination was wearing a seat belt. I wonder if it ever occurred to all the do-gooder’s out there that maybe she panicked and couldn’t get the stupid belt off while sinking through the ice in this lagoon? There are many other cases that have proven that seat belts have hindered a person’s life where it was better that the person be thrown out of the vehicle, than being ‘fried’ inside! So, I m one that believes that the freedom supposedly guaranteed by the Constitution should honor the individual’s decision whether to wear or not to wear seat belts. The other myth out there is that by wearing seat belts, everyone’s insurance rates will be lower, and associated medical costs will be lower for all. Sorry, but this Socialistic view doesn’t get my support!

  3. I should mention, I’m from the socialist country of Australia where it’s mandatory to wear seatbelts and to receive free health care.

  4. It figures. Have fun being a slave of a Socialist state! And I must quote Lady Margaret Thatcher of Australia’s “host”; “The problem with Socialism is that you run out of other peoples money”.

  5. I tend to err on the side of caution, even before seatbelts were mandatory, I had mine on. I’d have to say the number of accidents where people are injured or killed because they were wearing a seatbelt is relatively small. There are many demonstrated cases where injuries were much greater because the operator or passenger was ejected from the vehicle. According to the NHTSA, 75% of persons fully ejected from a vehicle did not survive.

    Link (.pdf):

    Here is a good, non-government link:

    There are states near here where riding a motorcycle without a helmet is allowed, that doesn’t mean it is a good idea. Nanny state laws are annoying, that is true, but I am not sure that seatbelts fall into that category.

  6. Your own personal judgment “on the side of caution” may be prudent, but that is your judgment and NOT the compulsory government judgment. There is a difference between conformance and freedom, and I happen to prefer the latter.

  7. Regarding Australia; I’ve been there and found the country and people rather nice. I understand the anti-nanny state stance, however, if everything were a free for all, then there’d be anarchy.

  8. Regarding Australia, I have talked to many amateur radio operators there and they are nice people. What gets me about Australia, was the vote to be independent of the crown a few years ago which failed. So, they apparently like to be under the “Queen’s wing”. In addition, many I have spoken to with regard to their mandatory gun control, are saddened by this move. Again, this was done a few years ago. Accordingly, immediately, after the Aussies surrendered their guns, crime immediately spiked. Conformance with whatever government wants usually means loss of freedoms. America wanted to be free from the Feudalism of King George, and the American Revolution made that happen. Freedoms have been taken for granted too long, and our government through the “asshats” and the Supreme Court have pushed the sheeple into conformance with many laws that are unconstitutional. The dumbing down of the public schools through the Department of Education, the NEA and PBS with their “go along to get along” children programming have further eroded constitutional values incrementally over the past 40 years. A Constitutional Republic stands only as long as freedom loving citizens hold steadfast to preserve it.

  9. I don’t know John, what the Australians did or didn’t vote for is really their business.

    The constitutional issues in the country are real and that is one reason for this blog. Over the air broadcast radio is the last free source of information we have. Eventually, ISP’s like the cable tv industry before them, will try to take advantage of their monopoly and squeeze the consumer with higher and higher rates. The so called “net neutrality” so much touted by its proponents is a pipe dream, it will never be enforceable.

    With then all information being filtered and choked off, the corporate ownership of our government will be complete. As it stands right now, practically every congressman and senator is bought and sold with “campaign contributions.” This corporate control of government has lead the the corporate welfare state, addicted to oil, debt ridden, consumerist society that takes its cues from a pyramid scheme called “Wall Street.”

    But, we appear to have gone off topic on a post related to workplace safety.

  10. Many of these issues with respect to safety in the workplace are inter-related with government holding a big regulatory stick over business. PCBs, DDT, lead-based paint, ROHS standards, radon gas seepage, VOC solvents, ban on incandescent light bulbs, and “arc-fault” circuit breakers are some examples and all involve politics. There was once a proposal in Congress to actually ban the metal lead! How then would our equipment be soldered? And, it appears that we can only paint towers today with water-based paints! With respect to tower safety, anti-fall cables affixed to ladders, and body harnesses are another that most tower crews hate because they restrict their movement as to get anything done. And OET65 with respect to non-ionizing radiation safety is another scare for the station owners. Radiation dosimeters and metallic suits are suddenly becoming available to prop up the economy. Common sense seemed to work in the past, but these days armies of lawyers (almost always politicians), and government bureaus keep constantly busy writing regulations that continue to plaque and stifle American business, and the majority of this is political. Steve Wynn (Wynn Resorts) recently gave a brilliant interview on CNBC that mirrors my feelings 100% as to the current status in Washington, DC with respect to American business.

  11. Anyone else getting the feeling that either J. Aegerter owns a station or two and doesn’t want to spend money on safety gear, or that he’s gotten fined for safety violations somewhere down the line?

  12. Wrong on ALL accounts. I DO NOT own any domestic broadcast properties governed by Part 73 of the FCC Rules, and I respect common sense safety practices. But government has gone the extremist route in mandating plainly stupid regulations that really haven’t accomplished anything except keeping lawyers busy drafting new regulations along with Big Government issuing fines for non-compliance. Take the case of KWNZ in Nevada. They are located atop McClellan Peak just outside Carson City. This mountain is barely accessible with a lifted truck. I have been up there so I know! This mountain is 7500 feet above sea level, and of course an FM station operating at such a height wouldn’t require much of a tower. The road leading up to the summit is filled with rocks, boulders, and deep ruts. So, the San Francisco FCC crew goes up there and takes some measurements as to the radiated field on the dirt road filled with ruts and rocks and issues a NAL.and later with a forfeiture. The station is clearly “grandfathered” since it has been on the air pre-dating OET65 by decades. Now, I ask you, KC, how would you like to be in this predicament? In order to comply, the tower height would have to be greatly increased or the current TPO would have to be grossly decreased to meet the new regulations. So the station could lose part of its coverage area that was licensed by the FCC to begin with. Building a taller tower would require more land for new guying, and the land is BLM (another government bureaucracy). And, it must be stated, that this mountaintop is simply miserable to get to, with few members of the general public taking the risk of going up there. The site is impassible in the winter, and the station engineering staff can only get access to their transmitters via “snow-cat” or helicopter. So the question remains, how many humans are affected by this non-ionizing radiation, and how long would anybody stay or camp alongside the tower? Better yet, who has complained about being “fried”? The answers to these questions is a resounding ZERO, yet Uncle Sam is “right there to help you”!

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