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Safety Essentials for Tower Maintenance


In a previous article we covered the major mistakes people make when doing tower climbs, including a lack of climbing plan, missing signage, insufficient training and certifications, poorly maintained safety gear or missing safety gear, and failure to keep an RF alarm turned on. Now we will address some solutions to tower climbing for improved safety, including technologies that eliminate the need to climb at all.

Cell towers have been built with the coaxial cables up the tower, necessitating a climb when maintenance is required or to determine the source of signal problems. Obviously, climbing towers that are many hundred or even thousands of feet tall is a dangerous and time consuming way to troubleshoot. With the addition of remote radio heads (RRH) on the tower, a fiber connection can replace the coaxial and run from the top to the base, allowing technicians to maintain the tower from the ground by reading the RF signal transmitted through the fiber via Common Public Radio Interface (CPRI). The result is safer, more cost effective tower maintenance, plus the ability to perform more regular signal analysis.

Another alternative to dangerous climbs is to let a nonhuman make the journey. Increasingly, drones are being utilized for site surveys and equipment checks in hazardous conditions. While drones may not be able to measure and analyze signal strength, they're perfectly suited for hardware inspections on towers. Equipped with high resolution cameras and combined with streamlined software that stores and catalogs images, drones can provide insight into the condition of towers and help determine when equipment may need to be repaired or replaced.

Should tower climbs still be necessary, appropriate safety measures and preparations should be taken to avoid the problems mentioned in our first article. TESSCO offers a wide assortment of climbing safety equipment that meets OSHA and ANSI safety standards, which can be packaged into a comprehensive climbing kit that meets every need. The right equipment is only useful with the right training and certifications. TESSCO offers training courses via TESSCO University that fulfill the requirements for OSHA certifications, as well as other courses by the Communications Industry Training & Certification Academy at the authorized climber level and the tower rescue and competent climber level.

Developing technology will likely make the need to climb towers rarer in the future, but when an RRH or a drone won't accomplish what's needed it's important to take the necessary precautions and preparations for a safe climb. With the right combination of safety equipment, knowledge, training, and certifications, the journey to the top of a tower can be made without incident.