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):-
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.
Picture taken in 1954 and shows an engineer working on two
ring type distribution heads.
Ring type distribution with open wires (early 1960's).
Ring type distribution with dropwire (1967)
Aerial cable erection in 1967.
Climbing a pole
by using leg irons
Fitting the leg irons
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
The lower part of the ladder was also tied
to stop it from kicking outwards.
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
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
Belt, Safety No. 1
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 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
Belt, Safety No. 8
Last revised: April 03, 2021