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Leg Irons
Safety Belts

Pole climbing had and still has an element of danger, as a fall can severely injure or kill a person.  Even in the early days the engineers working on poles used belts, but when manoeuvring between the fittings and in the process of strapping the belt to the pole falls can occur.  The GPO used two types of safety belt; the leather type and later nylon web types.  They were known as the Belt, Safety No. 1 and No. 3.

Right up to the 1950's engineers used leg irons to climb poles but the GPO moved to ladders and poles with steps.  No doubt this was considered the safest option.  The safety belt is constructed of two parts; the body belt, which goes around the waist and the pole belt which goes around the pole.

The correct method of climbing a pole was as follows (as methods change over time these instructions must be seen as historical and the latest instructions followed to prevent injury):-

  1. Erect the ladder and tie the top of the ladder to the pole.  The ladder should be approximately at a 4:1 angle.

  2. The ladder should have both feet on the ground.  Plywood packing was to be used on uneven ground.

  3. Tie the bottom of the ladder to the pole.

  4. Unsure the ladder is guarded to prevent pedestrian collisions.

  5. The ladder can also be footed by another person standing with both feet on the lower rung.

  6. Fit the body belt belt around the waist.  Ensure that safety clips/buckles are located correctly.

  7. Climb the pole with the pole belt over the shoulder.

  8. When at the working height, hug the pole with one arm and with the other arm connect the pole belt to the body belt.

  9. Ensure the pole belt safety clip/buckle is fully latched.

  10. One can now safely lean back and the safety belt will take the strain.

Tools are not carried up the pole but are raised in a Tool Bass by means of a sash line.  The Bass would be hung on the poles additional working step.

Climbing a pole by using ladders

Tying the top of the ladder to the pole whist a second man "foots" the ladder.

The year 1936 and the engineer has climbed from the working steps into the arm area.
Not an easy task in the summer, but how about doing this in rain or snow!

Picture taken in 1954 and shows an engineer working on two ring type distribution heads.
His Tool Bass is tied to a spindle as the pole has no working step.

Ring type distribution with open wires (early 1960's).
This engineer has a Belt Safety No. 1 on and has his Tool Bass on the working step.
Poles were fitted with one extra step just under the working area.  The pole strap
rested on this step and the step also assisted when buckling the strap up.
By the look of it he is erecting dropwire.

Ring type distribution with dropwire (1967)
The engineer is wearing protective clothing, safety goggles and a hard hat.
He is using a Belt, Safety No. 3.


Aerial cable erection in 1967
Engineer once again has all the protection required


 Climbing a pole by using leg irons
These pictures are from Northern Ireland (1936)

Fitting the leg irons
Leg irons work by means of a pointed metal prong, which faces downwards.
The prong can be seen towards the bottom of the boot, located between the two rivets.
When climbing, one leg is raised and the foot placed against the pole and the weight placed on that foot.
The metal prong bites into the wooden pole and the other leg is then raised.
It's not as easy as you think!


Ladder, Extending No. 5

The standard GPO ladder which was topped with a curved wire between the stiles.  This curved wire sat against the pole and because it was curved it made the ladder much more stable.

Close up of the curved wire
Note the tie rope which was to prevent the ladder from skewing around the pole.

The lower part of the ladder was also tied to stop it from kicking outwards.
The rope has plastic tubes on the two ends which hang over the rung.
The tie rope is then looped around the pole and made off.


Experimental Ladder, Extending No. 5

A series of pictures showing the experimental ladder dated 1966.  Early ladders, at the very top, had a curved wire but in this experiment the wire was replaced with two plastic rollers and two wheels.  The rollers were angled, so they sat against the pole which improved stability.  The two wheels allowed the ladders to be raised against a wall, instead of raising then into the air.  Once again making them safer.

They were eventually made a standard item but many users complained that they were more top heavy than the standard wire topped model.  The author of these articles used one and actually preferred them to the standard wire only model.  They were much more stable against the pole and were much safer to erect in windy situations.  Production stopped in the late 1970's but the author kept his set until 1989 getting them personally tested by the Mechanical Aids department whenever a safety inspection was called for.


This pictures showing a simpler method of tying the top of the ladder.
A cleat was introduced which retained the rope.
The production ladder had bigger wheels.


Close up of the wheels and rollers


More detailed picture of the top tie


The ladder erected with top and lower tie ropes in place

Safety Belts

Belt, Safety No. 1
The belt is made of good quality oxhide leather, 50mm wide and between 4.76mm and 6.35mm thick. It has two parts: a body belt, which is fastened round the hips and a much longer pole belt, which is fastened round the pole, Both belts are fastened by two-prong steel buckles, which incorporate rollers to reduce wear on the leather.

Where sections of the belt are joined together, they are hand sewn with flax or hemp thread and are reinforced with tinned solid-copper rivets and washers. Additionally, leather loops are riveted to the belt at the places where the body belt joins the pole belt so that the stitching is not pulled out by a strain tending to tear the two belts apart. A leather loop is fixed immediately behind each buckle, through which the tail is threaded after buckling. A movable leather loop is also provided on the body belt to secure the tail of the belt.

A brass three-slot slide embraces the pole belt through an outer slot between the buckle and the point where the body belt is joined. A mild steel two-slot slide embraces the pole belt at the tail end, but its movement is limited by two leather stops riveted to the belt.


Belt, Safety No. 1

Belt, Safety No. 3
The Belt, Safety No. 3, illustrated below, has two main
parts. The Body Belt, and a much longer Pole Belt. A linen Label is used for the Belt's identification and is contained in a pocket at the back of the Body Belt.

The Body Belt has a double width of webbing stitched to its back section, and is fastened round the waist by means of two different sized rectangular metal fittings. Its length is adjustable to suit different waist measurements, being controlled by an additional, small rectangular metal Adjuster Fitting.

The Pole Belt is threaded through an Anti-Friction Pad and is fastened round the pole by means of a Snap Hook and 'D' Ring. Its length is adjustable, being controlled by a self-locking metal Adjuster.

Both the Body Belt, and Pole Belt, are made from Continuous-filament Terylene, 44.5 mm wide. Sections of each belt being securely sewn together with nylon thread.


Belt, Safety No. 3

Belt, Safety No.8
This belt superseded the Belt, Safety No. 3.

Belt, Safety No. 8


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Last revised: March 12, 2022