Gin Pole Rigging – Safety Discussion & Considerations

Hello STAC Members,

STAC was saddened to hear of the recent gin pole accident in Miami Gardens, Fla., which resulted in the loss of three crew members’ lives. While the ultimate root cause of this incident has not yet been determined, STAC is eager to share any information it can that may help prevent a similar accident occurring from occurring in Canada or among STAC’s membership.

Clay Parchewsky – the STAC Workplace Health & Safety Committee Lead and VP of Health, Safety & Environment (HSE) for WesTower Communications – has provided here some information about safe use of gin poles and the procedures WesTower follows to help ensure the safety of tower crews who work on or around gin poles. This information can be found below.

Additional information about this accident and about gin pole safety will be made available in the weeks and months ahead as further details emerge.

Gin Pole Rigging – Safety Discussion & Considerations

By Clay Parchewsky
STAC Workplace Health & Safety Committee Lead
WesTower Vice President of Health, Safety & Environment

On September 27th there was a major incident on a broadcast tower in the United States; when three tower workers lost their lives. It appears a tower contractor experienced rigging failure where the gin pole separated from the antenna arbor (candelabra) and fell to the ground with the workers.

The gin pole was to be used to install an antenna mast on this tall tower at the end of the candelabra. However, it appears when the gin pole was being moved, rigging failure occurred, which ultimately factored in the loss of lives.

Safety Discussion

At WesTower, we work on very large broadcasting structures in excess of 600’ and apply the use of a gin pole in many of our guyed tower installations. While the recent accident in Miami Gardens cannot be replicated exactly in Canada – there are no Canadian broadcast towers with candelabras that require the same type of antenna installation – there are some major similarities to the type of gin pole use and applications that exist in Canada.

Some points to keep in mind for safe work on or around gin poles include:

1. A gin pole may be used during tower erection installations and repacking projects to stack towers by raise and/or lower tower sections, antenna or other heavy equipment. Our gin poles are a sophisticated lattice mast with a rooster head or a simple pipe tube with a top block to allow headroom above the highest fixed point on a tower. The rigging line used is typically steel wire or synthetic fibre rope.

2. Proper and diligent planning is absolutely vital prior to the use of a gin pole on any job site, and should include each of the following elements:

  • Crew member training requirements
  • Inspection(s) of rigging, gin pole and hoist
  • Safe job procedures and safe work practices
  • Rigging plans
  • Load charts
  • Engineering considerations
  • Rigging applications
  • Taglines

3. Senior management, HSE professionals and engineers should all be involved in planning for the use of a gin pole to help identify and successfully mitigate any and all potential hazards.

4. When lifting, the gin pole is the strongest when in a vertical application. Pre-planning and reference to the load chart when tagging must be considered. When the tag is applied, deflection occurs and the gin pole is not its straightest.

5. The highest hazards of gin pole use are when the pole is not secured or attached to the tower. This happens when the gin pole must be installed or removed OR when the gin pole is relocated (JUMPED) after lifts of successive sections of tower steel or antennas. Jumping the pole is supported through a sliding track or jump black attachment when moving the pole.

Additional

When jumping the gin pole, pay particular attention to:

i. The movement and travel paths of the pole and any obstructions that could become a hazard during the jumping process;

ii. Proper rigging and configurations of wire rope, slings, hardware and blocks;

iii. Crew members’ fall protection – CREW MEMBERS SHOULD NEVER ATTACH THEIR FALL PROTECTION TO A GIN POLE OR “RIDE THE GIN POLE” WHILE IT IS BEING MOVED.

iv. When using a base mounted hoist, the operator must pay attention to its operation, line tension and load capacities. If the hoist stops during line pull, the load being lifted may be stuck.

Recommendations/Actions

When we are using a gin pole, our management groups and crews need to pre-plan our projects so the job and execution of the use of a gin pole will lead to a successful installation. The rigging plan and JHA are essential to that success.