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Bucket trucks and winter's wonderland - safety reminders for telephone company technicians who operate bucket trucks

Telephony,  Nov 23, 1992  by Lloyd F. 'Frank' Brisk

This week I intended to offer a timely reminder for technicians who drive and operate bucket trucks that winter was on its way--but the weather refused to cooperate.

Winter arrived in Chicago early on Friday, Nov. 13, and dusted the suburbs with an inch or two of snow. The fresh snow was beautiful, but it iced expressway on/off ramps, made the decks of bridges and overpasses slick as bobsled runs, and turned the morning rush hour into a commuter's nightmare.

The next day, an extra heavy dose of snow also punished drivers in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. Thanks to winter's early arrival in some regions, some of my recommendations may be a little late.

Don't forget what last winter was like. Remember how rain, snow, salt spray and darkness hampers visibility and how important it is to have headlights, brake lights, turn signals, strobe warning lights, wipers and washers in good working condition.

Remember, too, just how treacherous one's footing can be and how it makes sense to look down and take extra caution when dismounting from your truck or its bucket.

Seasonal Reminder

* Give the engine of the electric power source on your rig a preseason tune up, adjust the electric choke and acquire a spark plug to use as a spare.

Daily Tips

* Check out the aerial lift's emergency stop and emergency lower function. Make sure you know how to lower the bucket safely when its main power system fails.

* Make sure that the truck's fuel tank is full before setting out.

* Verify that you have full propane tanks and propane tank heaters to power the electric generator.

* Stow your gear carefully. Don't let trash accumulate on the bottom of the bucket. When the bucket is not in use, keep snow and water out by replacing its cover.

At the Work Site

Safety rules and safe work practices apply equally to everyone, but they are especially important for bucket truck operators, who often work alone.

* Realize that ice and snow conditions often make it necessary to park the truck in a way that makes it stick out farther into the roadway than usual. In winter, visibility is reduced and vehicles require greater braking distances. Therefore, pay extra attention to your work area protection setup.

* Be alert for soft ground that could yield, affect stability and lead to tipping.

* "Take in the big scene." "Look up and live." "Always look in the direction you are moving." These statements are good advice whenever you are in a bucket and are changing its position. They warn against getting too close to power lines or bumping into tree branches, telephone lines or other objects. Remember that bucket tents reduce visibility. Keep their sides rolled up until the bucket is in the proper working position.

* Always wear your safety belt and attach its lanyard to the eye in the bucket. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires you to buckle up and wear a hard hat whenever you are in the bucket. Use your safety glasses, goggles, insulating gloves and voltage tester just as you would for any other aerial work.

Do yourself a favor. Instigate a tailgate meeting by having your supervisor contact your equipment vendor for safety films and tips on the use of aerial lifts.