PRACTISING TRANSMITTER SAFETY

 

Last month I was regaling you with true horror stories about accidents at the transmitter site.This month letís try out a few ideas that would prevent them.

 

Have you ever noticed, when you have tower riggers at the transmitter site, that theyíll barely get out of their truck without putting on their hard hats?These people do this for a living, and they donít take safety for granted.Hard hats are available practically everywhere, and theyíre very inexpensive.Get yourself one and wear it whenever youíve got people working on the tower.

 

I shouldnít have to mention that tower work is a specialized job and should be undertaken only by professionals in that field.If the height and the hazards donít give you pause, the liabilities that your employer incurs whenever you hop on a tower should prevent any attempt to do tower work yourself.Weíve all met technicians that think nothing of running up a tower to relamp it, usually without adequate safety equipment or any knowledge of what theyíre doing.To repeat: the insurance issues alone should prevent this from ever happening.These people donít belong in our industry.

 

When you take an emergency field call, especially after hours, make sure that someone knows where youíre going and how to reach you before you dash off into the wilderness.Itís smart to keep a few survival supplies in your vehicle, too.A broken fan belt may be the only thing between you and a disabled vehicle on a deserted road in the middle of nowhere.

 

Of course, my main point last month was that the primary risk to life that we all face at transmitter sites is electrocution from high voltage.If your transmitter has a shorting stick, make ample use of it before reaching inside.If thereís no shorting stick, get a big screwdriver and use it to short possible energized points to ground.While it would be very simple for me to make the blanket statement that you should never ever operate a transmitter with interlocks defeated and the doors open, the fact remains that weíve all found it necessary occasionally to look inside while itís operating.Sometimes this is the only way to troubleshoot a troublesome rig.But use extreme caution!Think hard about any alternative, safer procedures that you could try instead.Often you can contrive another, less exciting test that will give you the information you need at less risk.Step back and visualize what youíre planning to do, and what could go wrong.Think about it thoroughly.Then think about it again! Take off wristwatches and rings.Put one hand in your pocket.And donít go poking around in the transmitter when the powerís connected!Limit your adventure to observation only!

 

When dealing with gutters and mains distribution panels, itís entirely justifiable to refuse even an inspection if the power cannot be disconnected.Many thoughtful, experienced technicians share this view.On the other hand, youíll find many technicians that will not hesitate to reach inside a live panel.Most of us fall somewhere in between.My personal rule is to treat this kind of situation similarly to the transmitter example above: avoid if at all possible.Think about what you plan to do, and what could go wrong if things donít turn out as you expect.Think about it some more.If I canít contrive a way around it, I might proceed with extreme caution, and only with someone around to observe and intervene.Often having someone around with whom you can discuss the problem will prevent some of the sillier stunts from even being attempted.If itís just a matter of getting some out of service time to shut down the panel, think seriously about that.If itís an emergency and needs doing now, then maybe a short power interruption and off-air time are necessary right now.At least, make sure you have a hard hat and safety goggles.And if, after considering it slowly and thoroughly youíre still scared thinking about it, just donít do it.Come back later and do it safely!