All too often, heavy extension ladders slip and linemen crash to the ground. To prevent accidents and damage to customers' property, utilities are using an extension-ladder anti-fall device called the Safe-T-Climb.

Don Schwenke, the founder of Safe-T-Climb Inc. (Acton, California), and his partner, Michael Cinquemani, invented the extension-ladder attachment after they worked in the commercial roofing industry for more than 25 years. While roofing professionals rely on ladders to access rooftops, linemen often stand on ladders for hours to work on residential service. As a result, they are more prone to accidents.

The Safe-T-Climb keeps the ladder securely in place while a lineman is working on a residential service. Once the angle is determined, the lineman climbs the ladder and attaches the unit to the ladder at the roofline. In most cases, linemen can install the device in about 10 seconds or less.

The extension-ladder anti-fall device weighs 8 lbs and can be used on any roof, regardless of roof covering or pitch, and with any size or type of extension ladder. Linemen also can use the parapet wall attachments to secure the ladder on commercial buildings.

Safe-T-Climb Inc. brought the device to the market in 2006. In June 2008, the company presented the device to Southern California Edison (SCE; Rosemead, California). After a thorough review, the company approved the usage of the device. The linemen are currently using the device mainly to support ladders during residential service work, but Safe-T-Climb is also usable for commercial roofs and vault access.

“Safety is a number one priority to make sure linemen have the necessary tools to do their jobs in a safe manner and protect customers' property,” said Darrow Leslie, a training crew foreman for SCE in Antelope Valley, California. “Safe-T-Climb is one of the devices that we're using to stay safe in the field.”

Ladder Safety

By using the Safe-T-Climb attachment, linemen no longer have to estimate the correct angle of the extension ladder during the setup process. Many times, the ladder can slip when it is not set up at the federally mandated 75.5 degrees. To prevent this problem, the Safe-T-Climb device has a built-in bubble level to verify proper angle.

Safe-T-Climb Inc. also manufactures a device called the Angle Rite, which can be attached to the side rail of a ladder to help linemen meet federal regulations for proper ladder angle. Linemen are using this device in the field to help ensure that the ladder is in the correct position before the linemen climb up to the residential service.

Research and Development

Safe-T-Climb Inc.'s affiliate company, Ladder Safety Solutions Inc., worked with several utilities to refine a device for performing a mid-span operation from an extension ladder. For example, the device originally had three pins, but Ladder Safety Solutions Inc. remanufactured it to include two positive lock pins.

The company also insulated the hooking mechanism so it doesn't cause any damage to the communication cable. Once the device is in place, the lineman climbs the ladder to the point of contact, wraps the built-in nylon straps around the cable and cinches it down tightly so the ladder won't slide once elevated. Another change to the product is the addition of two stabilization spikes to be installed at the base of the ladder to keep it from slipping.

In January 2009, five training crew foremen tested the mid-span safety system at SCE's training center in Chino, California.

“Some changes were suggested and adapted,” said Leslie. “Once the training crew foremen gave their final suggestions, we completed the field evaluation in February.”

The final version of the device was approved by SCE's Tool Committee on March 17.

Safe-T-Climb also worked with linemen to refine a device called the Safe-T-Claw for those times when a lineman has to use an extension ladder to gain access to an electrical pole.

By preventing just one accident in the field, a safety product like these pays for itself in terms of employee down time and lost productivity.

Note: To see a video of the Safe-T-Climb device in use, visit safetclimb.com/video.html.