Jeff Welton, has worked with Nautel for 25+ years. He is currently the Nautel Sales Manager for U.S. Central Region but previously he spent 16.5 years as a Nautel Customer Service Technician.
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Seasonal Safety Tips
It’s starting to get colder here in the Northeast and we’ve already had the “f” word in the weather forecast – by “f” word, I mean flurries, of course! Snowy days are soon to follow, with all of the challenges they present. Since the theme of this issue of Waves is safety, I wanted to talk about some seasonal-specific safety points – things that might not be so critical at other times of the year but are much more important now, especially in parts of North America and other parts of the world.
You may recall I did a safety article in May as part of my NAB wrap-up, covering lone worker policies, PPE (Protective Personal Equipment) and a few tools that should be part of the toolkit for anybody working on the stuff we work on regularly. You can find that article here. Shortly after that, Chuck Kelly and I did a transmitter site safety webinar, which you can find here. Obviously all of those things apply year round, however, there are other points to consider as temperatures drop and days get shorter vs. when they rise and days get longer. Since we’ve got readers from the southern hemisphere, where summer is just getting into gear (I’m jealous!), I figured I’d take a look at both in this article.
First and foremost is site access. Many transmitter sites are located in relatively inhospitable places, making them a challenge to get to at the best of times. This obviously gets even more complicated if there’s a foot (or more) of snow on the ground. Chains and a shovel, at a minimum, are useful additions to the trunk of your engineering vehicle. As well, both in the vehicle and at the transmitter site, you should have a winter survival kit. I did a quick Google search and found several links, including this one, How to Make a Winter Survival Kit.
The reason for the separate kits is quite simply that you may not get to the site before getting stuck – and if you do get there and snow happens while you’re inside, you could be there awhile and double supplies might be useful! The local station I volunteer services to is located up a pretty steep power company access road. I can see situations where it would require a snow machine to have site access… unfortunately those aren’t as common in this part of the world as they are in the Midwestern U.S. or at higher altitudes, where snow is a much more frequent occasion!
In the summertime, site access is less of an issue, but challenges such as flash floods and road washouts can occur, so having a survival kit (although the blanket would be less necessary) is also a good idea at this time of year. Remember to cycle any foodstuff on a regular basis, so you’re not stuck at a site with no sustenance except 50-year old MREs!
Another thing to consider is slip and fall hazards; walkways get icy, wet boots and concrete or tile floors can be an issue, etc. Obviously walkways and steps at site entries should be cleared and either sanded or salted – this should probably be done on arriving at the site, so you don’t end up taking a spill on the way out the door. Wet boots aren’t an issue if you’ve got the ESR footwear I mentioned in the May issue of the Waves – you did get a pair of those, right?
NOAA has a pretty decent presentation on winter weather safety available here. Some of it seems like basic common sense, but not always so obvious for areas where this type of weather is not so common. Alabama had an ice storm last winter that resulted in a friend spending three days at the studios, as the roads were impassable. It’s always good to have at least a basic “I’m going to be stuck here for a while” kit ready!
Of course, if site access is proving to be an issue, you could always turn to the measures that Wyoming Public Radio took back in 2008… Wyoming Public Radio Turns to Horses to Fix Thermopolis Transmitter!
Other safety measures for the transmitter site seem like they might be more related to maintenance/reliability, but since the transmitter is most likely the primary heat source at the transmitter site, having it running will make any time stuck at the site a whole lot more comfortable! Obvious things, like generator maintenance and testing, ensuring fuel tanks are topped off (and in the case of diesel, filtered and treated on a schedule to reduce any algae growth or condensation related problems). Also ensuring that intake/exhaust louvers in the building are free and able to open as needed.
In summertime, one of the biggest safety issues at many transmitter sites can be some of the “local residents” – snakes, spiders, wasps and the like. Having repellents appropriate for these guys is a good idea – we’ve covered critter control in past issues here with a follow-up paragraph containing user suggestions here.
At all times, having a scheduled check-in (calling or texting another person on a regular, timed, basis to let them know you’re still vertical) is a very good idea, especially if you’re working alone (in spite of what I’ve said in previous articles about doing that!). Definitely, the best option is to have somebody else with you; especially in hazardous weather conditions.
That’s a short summary from my part of the world. What steps do you take to ensure transmitter site safety? Please drop me a line to let me know ([email protected]). I’ll include any submissions in the next article. That wraps it up for this issue – until next time, be safe and happy engineering!