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Results Are In! Tower Climbers’ Perspectives on Safe Use of Carabiners // The Tailgate

Welcome to The Tailgate, the Newsletter of the Tower Climbers Union/CWA.
Edition 4 // August 17, 2022


In response to recent threats from a contractor association that use of carabiners “could lead to immediate job shutdown and possible suspension from future work,” Tower Climbers Union/CWA conducted a survey of 111 active and former tower climbers between July 26 and July 28, 2022 to get frontline perspectives on the safe use of carabiners on a tower.

The survey findings demonstrate the contractor association is out of step with professional standards for safe tower operations. Rather than threatening tower hands with discipline or termination, industry groups and employers should work with TCU/CWA to raise standards for safety, training and compensation to ensure tower hands are valued and supported in their critical work connecting our communities.

Key findings:

  • 94% of respondents report they use carabiners in some situations, like for fall protection, lifting tools, PPE, and other items under 100 lbs, while the same portion of respondents also said they use shackles for rigging heavier loads and static loads.
  • 96% of respondents said an employer has provided them with carabiners, but only 83% of respondents said they were trained by those employers on safe use of carabiners. Comprehensive training about the use of any piece of equipment, including carabiners, is critical.
  • Nearly all (96%) of respondents felt that a tower climber should not be fired if they use a carabiner.
  • A supermajority (66%) of respondents believe that only a union, run by tower hands, can truly be the voice of tower technicians.

These results clearly demonstrate that tower technicians are capable of using carabiners under certain circumstances as a safe and more efficient tool on a job if used correctly and according to manufacturer guidelines and ANSI standards and with proper training.


Tower hands have a nuanced understanding of the appropriate applications for carabiners compared to shackles, and emphasized the importance of proper training on safe use of all equipment. In response to a request to provide an example of when and why you would decide to use a carabiner, and an example of when and why you would decide to use a shackle, survey responses showed a clear consensus on the important role carabiners play to ensure safe and efficient tower operations. For example:

  • There are two types of rigging used in tower construction. When lifting heavy loads, I always use steel chokers and steel screw pin shackles. If I'm lifting a small antenna using a rope, carabiners are fine to use because they are lighter, easier to use. There's nothing wrong with using carabiners because they are a worksaver, easy to use. It's when they are misused that has made them the point of this controversy.
  • The load rating is the biggest determining factor. The secondary lock is much faster on a carabiner than wiring up a shackle so it is definitely safer and faster to use a carabiner when you can.
  • According to OSHA and ANSI a carabiner is authorized in any situation as long as it is rated properly for the load you are lifting.
  • Shackles are required on all carrier, and landlord properties. I would use carabiners daily for rigging, if we didn’t get reprimanded for their use.
  • Carabiners are safer in most cases I believe. If you have ever worked with just shackles you're going to hate life and possibly kill a coworker. Shackles take 3 hands and I haven't met a dude with 3 hands yet so there is always a huge risk of drops. I would only be using a shackle for large loads such as booms, platforms, fully dressed antenna and radios.