Taking on Mast Climber Safety Responsibilities

Words: Dan Kamys

Mast Climbers

Today, with the information that is readily available through the internet, and with all the training available for hire (and some for free), there’s no excuse for not having a safer mast climbing experience. This is important, not only for the end user, but also for others on jobsites who may not even be using the system.

Consider safety on mast climbers and responsibilities of end users. It’s clear that, if you haven’t been trained to operate a mast climber, you shouldn’t. It’s also clear, according to the CPWR (The Center for Construction Research and Training), that in 2010, more than 12,600 mast climbers are in operation daily in the United States. That comes out to around 2.5 million man hours annually, erecting and dismantling this type of equipment.

Also, according to the CPWR, only 1,200 to 1,300 personnel were trained to do this type of work – meaning that only 10 percent of this work is being done by a competent person. According to OSHA, having a competent person operating mast climbers is and should be a requirement all should want to live by.

What our industry needs is a bigger commitment, not only from manufactures and rental houses, but also from the end users, in getting more competent people trained and units being used by these people only. Our two companies, TNT Equipment and PREMIER SCAFFOLD Solutions, have extended our training to include many different mast climbers we have had in our rental fleets for many years. We have full training for new customers as well as refresher courses. We also have a “train the trainer” course for our own ProSeries mast climber.

Training is the heartbeat for assuring everyone is safe, but without the commitment of the end user assuring employees do what they have been trained to do, it just doesn’t work. We must assure that everything is done right, and that mast climber operators be trained in the safe use and access of said equipment.

Here are just a few ways to help eliminate potential safety issues.

  • Have your mast climber dealer and or manufacture or qualified trainer get involved with your next project.?? The end user must make sure his employees are competent and not rely on whom they may be renting the scaffolding from.?? This is a clear regulation that it’s the responsibility of the end user to make sure of.?? If you’re not sure you better make sure since it may cost you more than what profit margins are out there in today’s world of more cost and less profits, that’s one of the reasons why mast climbers are so popular it does increase production and lowers labor but it also comes with responsibility.
  • The second way is to make sure your equipment is up standards.?? This should be done before job site delivery. In saying that if your equipment is not up to par then it’s not worth the risk.?? It should not be taken for granted that even if you’re renting equipment it’s all up to par, mistakes do happen and things change rapidly on job sites.?? Equipment may work one day and need repair the next or the ground when you base the unit its stable one day and may become unstable later during a ground shift that’s why its important to make sure the competent person on site makes his daily inspection and if something isn’t right put the mast climber out of order and then handle getting it right before any work happens on that particular unit.

Equipment access is an important consideration as well. This falls differently for each type of mast climber you may be using, but what doesn’t change is what OSHA/ANSI says about how you handle it. You must never be in a fall potential without having the appropriate safety supplies in place. More people get hurt, or even killed, because of a lack of fall protection. If you’re in a potential fall, you must have the appropriate fall protection on, and be tied off in a way that meets or exceeds OSHA’s requirements. This will serve you well in the long run. One example includes accessing the mast climber when moving planks, either on the outriggers or when bypassing the wall ties.

We should be planning on training before it becomes a jobsite issue. Someone could get hurt, or a site could be slowed down, because of inefficiencies of mast climber use. As mast climbers become even more popular and needed in the construction industry, training will become even more of a priority. If it isn’t, you can expect more accidents and more litigation. This, in turn, creates a smaller margin in an even more increasingly tight-margin workplace. But, with a little effort on everyone’s part, things can be better all around.

Michael Solomon is national sales manager for TNT Equipment/Premier Scaffold Solutions.

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