Many types of tools are used to maintain overhead electrical distribution systems. Sometimes the maintenance can be accomplished with the use of an aerial lift or line maintenance truck; however, access to a telephone pole with a truck may be difficult, or there may not be a truck available. When a truck is unavailable, personal climbing equipment becomes necessary. Climbing poles is not difficult if care is taken to select, fit, and maintain climbing and rigging equipment. In this chapter, you will learn about climbing and rigging tools and their uses. You will also learn how to select and fit the climbing or rigging tool for the job and provide the proper care of the climbing and rigging tools to keep them in good working condition.

When you have completed this chapter, you will be able to do the following:

Major sections of this unit

  1. Climbing Tools
  2. Rigging Tools

Review Questions



Types and Uses

Climbing tools consist of body belts, safety straps, climbers, gloves, and a hardhat. Climbing tools are used for scaling poles and trees, erecting power lines, and support for clearing and topping trees.

Body Belt

The lineman’s body belt is made up of four parts: a cushion or pad section for comfort and support, a belt with a tongue and buckle, a tool saddle, and D-rings attached to the cushion. Two measurements are necessary for fitting the body belt. One is used to determine the D-ring position on the belt and the other to actually fit the belt to your body. The most critical measurement of a body belt, in terms of comfort, is the “D” measurement. The proper “D” size is normally found by measuring from the prominent part of one hip around the back to the same point on the other hip bone. Add 2 inches to this measurement, so the D-ring heels will be just forward of the hip bones rather than on them. The measurement to properly size the body belt is determined by measuring completely around the waist where the belt is worn. All measuring is over the work clothing to be worn under the belt. Refer to the figure below for distances.

Safety Strap

Workers must use their safety straps at all times upon reaching a work position on any pole, tower, or structure. Before workers transfer their weight to the safety strap, they should ensure that the snaps on the safety strap are fastened properly to the D-ring of the lineman’s body belt. The only safe way to determine that the snap is securely fastened to the D-ring is to actually look at the D-ring each time you fasten the snap. Never depend upon the sound or feel of the snap. Leaning back for a test can also be dangerous because the snap may be caught in something other than the D-ring.


Climbers are used for ascending, descending, and maintaining work positions on the pole. They consist of leg irons with straps, pads, and gaffs. The leg irons are adjustable from 14 to 20 inches in half-inch increments. The gaffs are attached to the leg iron and are normally replaceable. Adjust the leg iron to a position 1 inch below the prominent inside bone of the knee. Secure the climber to your leg and foot with adjustable leather or Velcro straps.


Wear gloves to protect your hands. Use gloves whenever you are required to handle rough, scaly, or splintered objects, such as a wooden pole. Gloves should fit snugly, but not tightly. They should be flexible enough to allow for easy movement of the hand when you are working or handling tools.


A hardhat protects your head from falling objects and accidental contact with electrical circuits . It is made up of a shell and a suspension system. Adjust the headband portion of the suspension system to fit around the crown of your head. Adjust the chinstrap, which is attached to the shell, to fit beneath the chin. Adjust both the headband and the chinstrap to fit comfortably. DO NOT overtighten. Electrical workers must wear insulating hardhats rated as class E, electrical type. Class E hardhats are rated to meet a test of 20,000 volts 60 Hertz (Hz) for 3 minutes with 9 milliamps (MA) maximum leakage. Hardhat requirements are found in the 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Article 1926.100 and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z89.1-2014.

Inspect the Climbing Equipment

Body Belt. Inspect of the body belt before use. Inspect all leather parts for tears, cracks, and cuts. Inspect the stitching for rotting and broken threads. Inspect the D-rings and rivets for rust, breaks, and cracks.

Safety Strap. Inspect your strap before each use and every 6 months if stored for a period of time. Like the body belt, safety straps should be inspected for tears, cracks, and cuts. Also inspect the stitching for rotting and broken thread and the buckle for rust, breaks, and cracks. If you discover any of these things on the strap, it should be taken out of service. If you have any doubt about the serviceability of the strap, discard it.

Climbers. Inspect climbers before each use. Inspect straps and pads frequently for cuts, loose stitching, enlarged eyelet holes, and tears; and inspect buckles for rust and damage. Inspect gaffs for burrs, and ensure they are sharp.

Gloves. Inspect gloves for holes and cuts. Also inspect the stitching for rotting and broken threads. If there is any doubt about the serviceability of the gloves, replace them.

Hardhat. Inspect the hardhat shell for dirt, cracks, and burns. Check the suspension system for cuts and the chinstrap for elasticity and fraying before use. Replace the hardhat immediately if there are any signs of wear, damage, abuse, or environmental degradation.

Using Climbing Tools

 The following steps describe how to properly use climbing tools to ascend and descend a utility pole safely.

Ascending Procedures


Before climbing, ensure your arms are protected by rolling down your shirtsleeves. Protect your hands with leather gloves.

  1. Once the pole and climbing equipment have been inspected and deemed serviceable, you are ready to don your climbing equipment and climb up (ascend) the pole.
  2. When ascending, take short, comfortable steps approximately 8 to 10 inches high. Always take short glances up the pole to determine where you are going and if any obstacles are in your path during the climbing process. On each step, transfer the weight of your body to the lower leg with the knee locked. This procedure should be smooth and rhythmic.
  3. Keep hips, shoulders, and knees at a comfortable distance from pole. It is important to maintain a proper climbing position. Keep your shoulders and hips in a relaxed position. Remember to use 8- to 10-inch steps, maintain hand-foot coordination, and keep one knee locked at all times. Each time you take a step up, lock the knee of the leg with which you just stepped up.
  4. Use your legs to lift your body during climbing and use your hands for balance only. Novice climbers have a tendency to pull themselves up using their arms. Using the arms to pull up is a poor practice to get into because your arms will tire very quickly.
  5. With the stepping leg, make an inverted “J” with the gaff and plunge it into the pole approximately 6 inches above the ground. Step up on that gaff by putting your full weight on it, while keeping your knee locked and positioned away from the pole. Take another step with the other leg approximately 8 to 10 inches above the first.
  6. Each time you take a step, your gaffs should be directed towards the heart of the pole. In order for your gaff to achieve penetration into the heart of the pole and ensure safe positioning, your feet must be turned out and kept apart. Keeping your feet turned out will ensure that the gaff, and not the side of your foot, will hit the pole. The horizontal distance between your heels is determined by the size of the pole.
  7. Coordination of hand movement is very important. The right hand will move up with the right leg and the left hand will move up with the left leg in a rhythmic motion. Repeat this action until you reach the desired level above ground.

If you follow these simple procedures, you will not have any problems ascending the pole.

Descending Procedures

  1. Descending the pole is nearly the opposite of ascending. Keep a proper climbing position by remaining at a comfortable distance from the pole, relaxing the shoulders, hips, and knees. Look down between your legs as you descend.
  2. Coordination here is very important. The right hand will drop with the right leg and the left hand will drop with the left leg in a rhythmic motion. This motion is the opposite of how we walk, and it may take some practice for you to get the hang of it.
  3. Before taking a step down, relax the leg that is in the highest position on the pole. Remove this leg from the pole while at the same time supporting your full weight on the other leg. Allow your leg to hang down towards the ground, and straighten it by locking your knee. This action will enable you to keep the leg straight while you aim the gaff and step (drop) down.
  4. Aim the gaff at the heart (center) of the pole beneath your body. Be sure to point your toes upward when aiming.
  5. Aim and then drop the gaff of the leg removed from the pole into the targeted position that you sighted between your legs. Ensure that the drop is an unrestricted action, using your full body weight. Do not ease yourself down onto your gaff; drop with some amount of force. Easing down on the gaff will prevent full penetration into the wood of the pole and is likely to result in gaffing out. If done correctly, the leg that has dropped should support the full weight of your body.
  6. Use the upper leg to gauge how far to drop. If the drop is done correctly, the upper leg will be parallel with the ground. Remove the uppermost leg from the pole by “rolling” the knee to the outside (away from the pole) before taking the next step. Repeat the initial procedure of stepping down after removing the uppermost leg from the pole. Remember, coordination and rhythm are very important. You take your last step to the ground at approximately 6 inches or less from the bottom of the pole to prevent gaffing yourself and/or injuring your knee.

Care of Climbing Tools

Use the following guidelines when working with climbing tools:


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Types and Uses

You will use rigging tools during the installation, maintenance, and removal of assorted equipment. This equipment, if used as intended, will enable you to perform your work safely, quickly, and easily. Without the proper knowledge of rigging tools, you would need to lift heavy objects by hand and climb up and down the pole every time you needed additional tools or materials. For example, the block and tackle is the tool of choice when you need to manually lift and position heavy equipment and support material, such as crossarms and distribution transformers, to the top of a utility pole; whereas, the hand line allows utility workers working at the top of a pole to raise smaller equipment components, hardware, or tools with little effort. Because these tools are essential to the safe movement of equipment that can be heavy and awkward, it is essential to maintain and inspect them on a regular basis. The correct and timely maintenance of these items will ensure their long life and reliability. Incorrect maintenance can lead to their failure, which could result in equipment damage or injury to yourself or your co-workers.

Hand Line

The hand line is the simplest rigging tool that you will use in the field. In its simplest form, it is just a rope used to raise and lower relatively lightweight tools and equipment. There are basically two types of hand lines: single and continuous. A single hand line is nothing more than a single piece of rope with each end braided so the ends will not unravel. Using this hand line requires the individual to do all the raising and lowering of equipment needed. The hand line is normally used when no other type of lifting capability is available.

Block and Tackle

Whenever the load exceeds the limits of a hand line, use a block and tackle. It will allow you to lift the object safely and with little effort. A block and tackle arrangement is a combination of blocks and ropes by which an object or load can be lifted or moved in a desired direction. Blocks are designated by the length of the shell in inches and by the number of sheaves. Blocks with one, two, three, or four sheaves are called single, double, triple, and quadruple blocks, respectively. The size of the sheave and the depth of the groove in the sheave usually determine the largest size rope for any block. Frames of the blocks can be made of wood, metal, or a combination of both.

Wire Rope

During the course of a career, you may need to hoist or move heavy objects. Wire rope is used for heavy-duty work. In the following paragraphs, we will discuss the characteristics, construction, and usage of many types of wire rope as well as the safe working load, use of attachments and fittings, and procedures for the care and handling of wire rope.

Wire rope

Wire rope consists of three parts: wires, strands, and core. In the manufacturing of wire rope, a number of wires are laid together to form the strand. Then a number of strands are laid together around a core to form the wire rope.

The basic unit of wire-rope construction is the individual wire, which can be made of steel, iron, or other metal in various sizes. The number of wires to a strand will vary, depending on the purpose for which the wire rope is intended. Wire rope is designated by the number of strands per rope and the number of wires per strand. Thus, a 1/2-inch, 6 by 19 wire rope will have 6 strands with 19 wires per strand; but it will have the same outside diameter as a 1/2-inch, 6 by 37 wire rope, which will have 6 strands with 37 wires of much smaller size per strand.

Wire rope that is made up of a large number of small wires is flexible. The small wires are, however, easily broken, so the wire rope does not resist external abrasion. Wire rope that is made up of a smaller number of larger wires is more resistant to external abrasion but is less flexible.

The core is the element around which the strands are laid to form the wire rope. The core can be of hard fiber, such as manila, hemp, plastic, paper, or sisal, or it can be made of wire strand. Each type of core serves the same basic purpose: to support the strands laid around it.

A fiber core offers the advantage of increased flexibility. Also, it serves as a cushion to reduce the effects of sudden strain and acts as a reservoir for the oil to lubricate the wires and strands to reduce friction between them. Wire rope with a fiber core is used in places where flexibility of the wire rope is important.

A wire-strand core not only resists heat better than a fiber core, but it also adds about 15 percent to the strength of the wire rope. On the other hand, the wire strand makes the wire rope less flexible than a fiber core would.

An independent wire-rope core is a separate wire rope over which the main strands of the wire rope are laid. It usually consists of six seven-wire strands laid around either a fiber core or a wire-strand core. The core strengthens the wire rope more, provides support against crushing, and supplies maximum resistance to heat. Wire rope can be made by either of two methods. If the strands or wires are shaped to conform to the curvature of the finished wire rope before laying up, the wire rope is termed preformed. If they are not shaped before fabrication, the wire rope is termed non-preformed. When cut, preformed wire rope tends not to unlay, and it is more flexible than nonpreformed wire rope. With nonpreformed wire rope, twisting produces a stress in the wires; and, when it is cut or broken, the stress causes the strands to unlay. In nonpreformed wire rope, unlaying is rapid and almost instantaneous, which could cause serious injury to someone not familiar with it.

Common types of wire rope include 6, 7, 12, 19, 24, or 37 wires in each strand. Usually, the wire rope has six strands laid around a fiber or steel center.

Figure 1 — Two types of wire rope.

Two other common types of wire rope, 6 by 19 and 6 by 37 wire rope, are shown in Figure 1. The 6 by 19 type of wire rope (Figure 1A), having 6 strands with 19 wires in each strand, is commonly used for rough hoisting and skidding work where abrasion is likely to occur. The 6 by 37 wire rope (Figure 1B), having 6 strands with 37 wires in each strand, is the most flexible of the standard 6-strand wire ropes. For that reason, it is particularly suitable when you are going to use small sheaves and drums, such as those used on cranes and similar machinery.

Chain Hoist

Chain hoists come in a variety of designs and rated lifting capacities. They are made of steel or aluminum alloy and range from 1/2- to 12-ton lifting capacities. While rigging, you will use hand chain hoists that are generally rated at 1 1/2 to 3 tons.

You will use these hoists in support of various maintenance and construction applications. The chain hoist shown here is typical of what you will use in the career field. It is designed to easily lift or move heavy weights and for applying tension to utility pole guying systems.

The chain hoist consists of a hoist mechanism, two hooks, a ratchet lever, a selector lever, and a handwheel. The hooks generally have a safety snap so that the load cannot accidentally come off the hook. The selector lever is used to select up or down movement. The handwheel is used to quickly take up the slack in the chain before actual lifting begins. Hand chain hoists have been designed with built-in safety features that indicate when a hoist has exceeded its safe working capacity. If you use a hoist in a manner that exceeds its rated design limit, the hooks or the ratchet lever will begin to bend. This bending signals impending failure. Because of the damage that will be done to the hoist, it is important to ensure that you never exceed the lifting capacity.

Hooks and Shackles

Hooks and shackles (Figure 2) provide a useful means of moving loads without tying directly to the object with a line, wire rope, or chain. Attach them to wire rope, fiber line, blocks, or chains. Use shackles for loads too heavy for hooks to handle.

Figure 2 — Hooks and shackles.

Inspect hooks at the beginning of each workday and before lifting a full rated load. Inspect the areas of a hook, illustrated in Figure 3, for wear and strain. Be especially careful during the inspection to look for cracks in the saddle section and at the neck of the hook.

Figure 3 — Hook inspection

When the load is too heavy for you to use a hook, use a shackle. You should inspect shackles, like hooks, on a daily routine and before lifting heavy loads. The inspection areas of a shackle are illustrated in Figure 4.

Figure 4 — Shackle inspection

You should never replace the shackle pin with a bolt. Never use as shackle with a bent pin, and never allow the shackle to be pulled at an angle; doing so will reduce its carrying capacity. Packing the pin with washers centralizes the shackle, as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5 — Packing a shackle with washers

Mousing is a technique often used to close the open section of a hook to keep slings, straps, and so on, from slipping off the hook, as shown in Figure 6. To some extent, it also helps prevent straightening of the hook. Hooks should be moused with rope yarn, seizing wire, or a shackle. When using rope yarn or wire, make 8 to 10 wraps around both sides of the hook. To finish off, make several turns with the yarn or wire around the sides of the mousing, and then tie the ends securely, as shown in Figure 6. Shackles are moused when there is danger of the shackle pin working loose and coming out because of vibration. To mouse a shackle, simply take several turns with seizing wire through the eye of the pin and around the bow of the shackle.

Figure 6 — Mousing


Slings are widely used for hoisting and moving heavy loads. Some types of slings come already made. Slings can be made of wire rope, fiber line, or chain.

Wire Rope Slings

Wire rope slings offer the advantages of both strength and flexibility. These qualities make wire rope adequate to meet the requirements of most crane hoisting jobs; therefore, wire rope slings are used more often than fiber line or chain slings.

Fiber Line Slings

Fiber line slings are flexible and protect finished material better than wire rope slings. However, fiber line slings are not as strong as wire rope or chain slings and are more likely to be damaged by sharp edges.

Chain Slings

Chain slings are most often used for hoisting heavy steel items, such as rails, pipes, beams, and angles. Chain slings are the most appropriate type of sling for hot loads and loads that have sharp edges that might otherwise sever the sling components.

Using Wire Rope and Fiber Line Slings

There are three types of wire rope and fiber line slings: endless, single-leg, and bridle. The following paragraphs describe the uses of wire rope and fiber line slings.

An endless sling (Figure7), usually referred to as a sling, can be made by splicing the ends of a piece of fiber line or wire rope to form an endless loop. An endless sling is easy to handle and can be used as a choker hitch. To make a single-leg sling, commonly referred to as a strap, form a spliced eye in each end of a piece of fiber line or wire rope. Sometimes you can splice the ends of a piece of wire rope into eyes around thimbles, and then fasten one eye to a hook with a shackle. In this arrangement, the shackle and hook are both removable.

Figure 7 — Endless slings.

The single-leg sling can be used as a choker hitch in hoisting by passing one eye through the other eye and over the hoisting hook. The singe-leg sling is also useful as a double-anchor hitch and works well for hoisting drums or other cylindrical objects where a sling must tighten itself under strain and lift by friction against the sides of the object.

Single-leg slings can be used to make various types of bridles. Three common uses of bridles are shown in Figure 8. Two or more single slings can be used for a given combination.

Figure 8 — Multi-legged bridle slings.

The bridle hitch provides excellent load stability when the load is distributed equally among each sling leg. The load hook is directly over the center of gravity of the load, and the load is raised level. The use of bridle slings requires that the sling angles be carefully determined to ensure that the individual legs are not overloaded.


It is wrong to conclude that a three- or four-leg bridle will safely lift a load equal to the safe working load of one leg multiplied by the number of legs. This wrong conclusion results because there is no way of knowing whether each leg is carrying its share of the load.

When a four-legged bridle sling lifts a rigid load, it is possible for two of the legs to support practically the full load, while the other two legs only balance it.

When lifting heavy loads, ensure that the bottom of the sling legs are fastened to the load in an effort to prevent damage to the load. Many pieces of equipment have eyes fastened to them during the process of manufacture to aid in lifting. With some loads, though, fastening a hook to the eye on one end of each sling leg suffices to secure the sling to the load.

Use a protective pad to protect a fiber line or wire rope sling from exposure to sharp edges at the corner of the load. Pieces of wood or old rubber tires are often available and handy for padding.

Care of Rigging Tools

Use the following guidelines when working with rigging tools:


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Review Questions

1. Climbing tools consist of body belts, safety belts, and which of the following other devices?

A. Climbers
B. Hand line
C. Hoist
D. Safety glasses

2. Climbing tools are used for scaling poles and trees and for which of the following other purpose?

A. Erecting power lines
B. Lifting heavy objects
C. Pruning bushes
D. Pulling high-voltage wires

3. An electrical worker’s hardhat should be rated as what class?

A. B
B. C
C. D
D. E

4. All leather parts of the body belt should be inspected for which of the following conditions?

A. Cuts, flexibility, and softness
B. Flexibility, softness, and color
C. Tears, cracks, and cuts
D. Tears, cracks, and flexibility

5. When stored for a period of time, the safety strap should be inspected at an interval of how many months?

A. 1
B. 3
C. 6
D. 9

6. If the serviceability of the safety strap is in doubt, what action should be taken?

A. Discard the belt
B. Perform the annual inspection
C. Service the belt
D. Take the belt to the tool room

7. When climbing, what tool should you use?

A. Safety strap
B. Eye protection
C. Blousing strap
D. Rubber boots

8. To keep leather items soft and supple, what substance should be applied?

A. Linseed oil
B. Neatsfoot oil
C. Talcum powder
D. Vaseline

9. Leather climbing items should NOT be exposed to which of the following conditions?

A. Cold weather
B. Excessive heat
C. Indirect sunlight
D. Rain

10.What result can occur if sharp objects and tools are stored with climbing straps?

A. Damaged straps
B. Damaged points
C. Loosen D-rings
D. Change gaff angles

11.Which of the following tools is the simplest rigging tool?

A. Chain hoist
B. Hand line
C. Wire rope
D. Wire sling

12.Which of the following tools is used for hoisting heavy objects?

A. Chain hoist
B. Hand line
C. Wire rope
D. Wire sling

13.Which of the following rigging tools is used to move loads without tying directly to the object with a line or chain?

A. Chain hoist
B. Hand line
C. Shackle
D. Sling

14.At what interval should rigging hooks be inspected?

A. Annually after the weight test
B. Before lifting a full rated load
C. Every quarter after the weight test
D. Monthly after overhaul

15.A shackle pin should be replaced with what item?

A. Heavy-duty bolt
B. Locking wire
C. Packing
D. Replacement shackle pin

16.When heavy loads are to be lifted, the bottom sling legs should be in what condition to prevent damage to the load?

A. Lubricated for operation
B. Fastened to the load
C. Have taglines attached
D. Painted orange for safety

17.Before lifting a load, what factor should you determine?

A. Height of the lift
B. Size of the load
C. Time of the lifting evolution
D. Weight of the load

18.Slings should be kept free of kinks, loops, and what other condition?

A. Grease
B. Twists
C. Oil
D. Excessive sun

19.A wire rope should be removed from service when the inspection reveals what condition?

A. Exceptionally clean wires
B. Excessive grease at the hooks
C. Moderate paint splatters on the wires
D. Widespread corrosion and pitting

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Answers to Exercises

1. A
2. A
3. D
4. C
5. C
6. A
7. A
8. B
9. B
10. A
11. B
12. C
13. C
14. B
15. D
16. B
17. D
18. B
19. D

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All Rights Reserved