Fall Protection for Wood Pole Climbing

Effective fall protection equipment for workers who climb wood poles has been one of the most difficult challenges facing the electrical utility industry. Because of the latest safety equipment advances, however the ability to protect these workers is now easier, and should be considered a priority.

While bucket trucks are used often to work on utility poles, sometimes wood pole climbing is the only way to get the job done. Wood pole climbing is difficult, and all climbers—regardless of skill level—are susceptible to falls. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to find effective, easy-to-use fall protection equipment for an already demanding task.


Fall Protection/"Restrict" Selection Criteria When selecting a fall restrict system, consider the following:

  • Ease of use. Lack of adjustability is the most frequent complaint from fall restraint users. Many fall protection belts require a long period to "break in" before the material is soft enough for the hardware to slide along the strap. This problem is often compounded by a secondary loss of adjustability after the material becomes softened.
  • Ergonomics. Watch out for belts that require extra movements when transferring over obstructions. Taking the fall protection belt out of adjustment and having to readjust it every time it is transferred adds additional movement and time to the transfer.
  • Simplicity. Fewer mechanical pieces mean contending with fewer problems and less weight.
  • Function. Not all fall restricting belts are created equal. Some systems may not meet the stringent CSA-Z259.14-01 standard for this type of equipment. This certification should be a prerequisite when considering a fall restricting belt.
  • Strength. Look for ANSI Z359.1-07 stamped on the connectors; such gates are rated for 3,600 pounds in every direction. This should be a consideration because these fall protection systems require multiple connections, and gate loading could become an issue if connections are inferior.
  • Versatility. The newest fall restrict systems offer the ability to change the size of the exterior strap, which allows the worker to climb large-diameter transmission poles without having to purchase a separate pole climbing system. The optional transmission strap rolls up and takes up very little space for storage.1

Innovations in Fall Protection
Wood pole climbing is not only dangerous but also one of the most difficult applications in fall protection. However, thanks to recent design improvements, fall protection systems are becoming easier to use. For example, the Cynch-Lok Fall Restricting Pole Strap is a user-friendly strap, which meets stringent CSA 259.14 standards. Cynch-Lok allows you to easily hitch-hike posts (reposition, move or jump the strap upwards) with a comfortable hand position. The strap also moves past obstacles without difficulty. Exterior straps can be changed depending on the type and size of pole. Cynch-Lok’s unique design cinches around a pole in the event of a cut-out or fall.

It is the employer's responsibility to be aware of potential hazards their workers face and to ensure they are properly protected. 2 Advancements in fall protection equipment have made meeting this responsibility much easier.

Article Courtesy of Capital Safety, a leading designer and manufacturer of fall protection and rescue products including the DBI-SALA and PROTECTA brands

1,2 Source: Occupational Health & Safety (oshaonline.com), "Fall Protection for Wood Pole Climbing", by Clifford Petty, electrical utility specialist for the Americas with Capital Safety, January 1, 2011.