Training Linemen How to Safely Climb and Self-Arrest with TRUBLUE Auto Belays

The effectiveness and viability of the power linemen trade is uniquely tied to the ability to climb poles safely and comfortably. With current OSHA Best Practice guidelines for ‘Safety at Heights’ specifying that Fall Protection Equipment (FPE) shall be used when ascending, descending, changing position and when in the working position, it’s essential to involve FPE equipment in the training environment to get lineman familiar with its proper use.

The TRUBLUE Auto Belay is the perfect tool for training lineman how to self-arrest, a vital safety skill for working at heights and climbing with FPE. With its excellent safety record and reliable performance, TRUBLUE allows students to focus on their climbing abilities and developing the muscle memory to self-arrest so they can employ those skills when they need them most.

According to a Powerline Instructor

Lineman practice on TRUBLUE Auto Belay

“In recent years, I have seen the development and use of fall arrest systems for pole climbers. Upcoming safety standards will require all line workers to be restrained while working aloft. With these new standards, I have begun to train with these devices and have not allowed free climbing in training.

“As a lineman, I believe my students are not developing the same skill they did prior to these devices. Without the slips and falls experienced by those trained prior to these devices, students never develop the reflex of catching themselves. This skill is what I refer to as a ‘self-arrest.’ I compare this to a toddler learning to walk. Without stumbling and occasionally falling, they will never develop a proper sense of control to develop ‘balance.’ I began to look at systems available to assist in bridging this gap. There were many devices available, however all of them would lock as soon as the climber began to fall, virtually eliminating the opportunity to self-arrest. After some research I discovered the TRUBLUE Auto Belay.

“The key difference [between TRUBLUE and other auto belay devices] is that the initial fall catch is delayed – in essence, a climber falls as if nothing were attached for the first few feet until the device gently arrests the fall and lowers them slowly to the ground. This allows the climber to develop the self-arrest skill. It forces my students to once again develop the proper climbing techniques that will result in a better, more confident climber!”

-- Scott Meinecke is a Powerline Instructor at Northwest Iowa Community College. Scott teaches the powerline program at NCC, as well as many utility workshops in the Upper Midwest. He has presented at the International Construction and Utility Exposition. He is also active in the emergency services and was named fire service instructor of the year for Iowa in 2013.

Developing More Realistic Lineman Training Scenarios

Engineered primarily to protect high performance rock climbing, the TRUBLUE Auto Belay was specifically designed to provide an unassisted ascent. In other words, it doesn’t pull you upwards as you climb.

For recreational purposes, an unassisted ascent allows climbers to enjoy a more authentic climbing feel, as well as a more realistic training experience. The reasoning behind this design is simple. You wouldn’t want to climb one way in the gym, only to go outside and realize that you can’t perform at the same level now that the stakes are higher, and the likelihood of an injury has increased. It’s far better to understand your own strengths and limitations while you are climbing within a controlled environment.

The same concept applies to lineman training.

When teaching the proper technique for climbing a pole, authenticity is essential for ensuring that your students develop the necessary skills for the job. At the same time, learning new skills takes time and practice. As an instructor, you are constantly balancing the need for realistic training scenarios with the safety of your students.

By using TRUBLUE Auto Belays as a backup safety system, you can provide your linemen with the best of both worlds. Not only will they learn how to climb under their own power, TRUBLUE gives students the opportunity to practice self-arresting and then, if they fail to prevent the fall, lowers them back to the ground in a reliable and controlled descent.

What Sets TRUBLUE Apart from Other Auto Belays?

Beyond the unassisted ascent, TRUBLUE Auto Belays are also known for their ultra-reliable magnetic braking system. In fact, it is the same technology that has been used in roller coasters, elevators, and high-speed trains.

Magnetic braking has several key advantages over standard brake pads. From an operational standpoint, with magnetic braking there are no rubbing internal components, which reduces the wear placed on the device, minimizes the need for replacement parts, and extends the lifespan of the auto belay.

In terms of user experience, lowering on a magnetic braking system is noticeably smoother than the alternatives. It is also self-regulating. This means that every person is automatically lowered at the same pace, regardless of their weight (up to a maximum capacity of 330lbs). Particularly for linemen who are carrying additional tools and safety equipment, this feature can add an additional layer of consistency and predictability to any training exercise.

Magnetic braking is also considerably more weather resistant than brake pads. When a brake pad becomes wet, it has the potential to slip. The same is not true for magnetic braking. Rather than relying on friction, the TRUBLUE Auto Belay utilizes a phenomenon known as an “eddy current” to produce a dampening effect.

For more information about how eddy currents work: Our Technology

In short, when a climber falls, the release of the webbing is slowed by opposing magnetic forces. It does not matter whether the auto belay is wet or dry, those magnetic forces will continue to work, regardless of the circumstances. For lineman -- who have to go out into the field in every type of weather – this offers an additional opportunity to train in inclement conditions, while still maintaining a high level of safety.

The TRUBLUE Auto Belay is hands down the best training tool for teaching fundamental climbing skills. Without it, my students would not develop the proper climbing technique that will make them better line workers. -- Scott Meinecke, Powerline Instructor

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