Before I even think about putting my saddle on and getting right to work, I make equipment inspection part of the job. My equipment gets inspected every time before I toss it on. That frees up my mind to then start thinking about the work we have at hand that day without wondering about my gear.
I look closely at my harness, checking for defects such as broken or missing components. I check the stitching and webbing, especially the areas of high wear like the leg straps. I look very closely at the rope bridges on the saddle to make sure they are in good working condition, and, of course, I replace them at the recommended intervals. I also like to check my lanyard before I put all my gear on, so I can see it really well and see how it hangs on the saddle. I check all my cordage – lanyard, rope bridges, climbing line – for hollow spots, frays, deformities or anything else that might indicate a problem.
Once I inspect my gear, I take a close look at the crane tie-in point. Before I tie in, I inspect the “headache ball,” the hook and gate and all the attachment points to make sure all the pins are in and nothing is loose. Our crews attach to the load-line termination above the becket. We make a point to closely inspect the line termination out of the becket. Depending on how your crane is set up, you will want to make sure you attach your climb line to the live end of the cable tail and not the dead end.
OK, inspection is done – let’s tie in.
Our crews use a custom-made attachment sling designed by Travis Vickerson, CTSP and Chippers VP of operations, and built by Reed Wortley of Asheville, North Carolina. It consists of two ISC steel carabiners on 10mm Teufelberger epiCord stitched together and wrapped in a durable fabric cover to protect against abrasion. Two ISC steel rings are spliced at the other end of the epiCord to support the climbing line. Two rings are used instead of one to increase the bend radius of the rope and prevent it from breaking with me on it.
I attach the two steel carabiners to the load line with opposing gates (the carabiner gates are facing away from each other) above the becket. My climb line gets threaded through both rings and then I attach my system. It might look like there is a little bit of side loading on the carabiners, but this setup won’t even come close to exceeding the load limits on the components.
When riding the crane line, you always want a secondary attachment point on the ball. I use my lanyard as a second attachment point connected into the hook. I use the lower D-rings on this particular saddle because they are designed for vertical restraint. The side D-rings on this saddle are for horizontal restraint, or work positioning. If something happens, I want to be suspended by the vertical D-rings and not the horizontal side D-rings; that would be uncomfortable at the very least, and could cause injury.
Just before liftoff, I make sure I have tension on my climb line and that my lanyard is just barely slack. That is so that, if something happens to my climb line, my lanyard will have enough tension to support me without dropping me into the slack.
When I’m tied into a crane’s load line, I keep my climb line coiled up in a bag on my harness. I don’t want it dragging on the ground or getting caught in the tree, which could easily pull on me. One thing I highly recommend if you do a lot of crane work is to get some suspenders to help carry the weight of your harness. I’ve found that this simple accessory really reduces the strain on my back.
I hope you enjoy working with cranes as much as I do, and that some of these tips will help you out.
Blake Duval is a Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP), a Certified Arborist and operations manager for the Meredith, New Hampshire, office of Chippers, Inc., an accredited, 22-year TCIA member company with offices in Vermont and New Hampshire.
Tchukki Andersen, CTSP and Board Certified Master Arborist (BCMA), is staff arborist for the Tree Care Industry Association and coauthor of TCIA’s revised and soon-to-be-released “Best Practices for Rigging in Arboriculture” manual.
Click above to view a video demonstrating the climber crane tie-in technique discussed here.