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SAEMA – Specialist Access Engineering and Maintenance Association – has a long history in delivering the best training and guidance in the temporary and permanent suspended access industry.

In keeping with our commitment to advancing safety through raising the standards in best practice, we keep in touch with all the latest developments – chiefly safety, worker welfare and the environment. We are pleased to share the following story from Justin Oxenham at PASMA (Prefabricated Access Suppliers’ and Manufacturers’ Association).

I joined PASMA in summer 2022 and my colleague Johanna Sahi-Proto came on board shortly afterwards, becoming our new member services officer in November. Neither of us are from a tower background, so we knew it wouldn’t be long before we were booked onto a training course to get us up to speed! That day came last month, when Johanna and I attended a PASMA Towers for Users course at our local training centre in Glasgow. I’ll be honest, I was a bit nervous! Johanna felt the same, but we were soon put at ease thanks to our instructor Alan Laurie and fellow course participants. Johanna commented afterwards: “It was a pleasant surprise to see how helpful everyone else on the course was. It was my first time building a mobile tower and they were all really supportive and encouraging.”

The day started with a theory class.

We spent the morning in a classroom learning all about towers and how to use them safely. We learned how to assemble and dismantle them, as well as how to move, alter and inspect them. We were taught how to identify hazards relating to towers and what legislation, regulations and guidance are applicable to them. I was pretty surprised to learn the definition of working at height as I used to think it was anything above ground level. Now of course, I know it’s anywhere that you could fall a distance and hurt yourself, even if that place is at or below ground level (like the edge of a pit). We all had to pass a theory test before we could move on to the practical. We sat the test before lunch but had to wait until afterwards for our marks. Johanna and I sat together and discussed the immense pressure we both felt to get the highest marks – we were both wearing a PASMA hi-vis, after all! We were relieved when we found out we’d passed and laughed a bit because our marks were the exact same too – 29/30. Johanna enjoyed the theory test because “I got to test all my knowledge gained from working in the member services team and from the in-depth theoretical session that morning.”

Onto the practical session!

In the afternoon, we were tasked with erecting two types of towers – an AGR tower and a 3T tower. 3T or “through-the-trap” involves sitting in the trap door while adding or removing the guardrails. With the AGR (Advanced Guard Rail) tower, the guardrails are already in place in the frame, so it reduces the number of components required and I found that made it faster to assemble.

Alan carefully led us through each step of the assembly process with great patience and knowledge. I learned so much about the importance of safety and following the instructions in the manual, as I knew not only did I have to build the tower correctly to keep myself safe but also to make sure my team members were climbing a safe tower too. Climbing the tower was pretty scary as I did not realise It was that high but at the top I felt secure as I knew the guardrails were firmly in place. By the end of the afternoon we’d successfully passed the whole course, earning our own PASMA Cards in the process.

What I learned

Completing Towers for Users was an important milestone for me. As PASMA’s marketing and communications assistant, part of my role is sharing tower safety messages and I know I can only do that well if I understand what I’m talking about. It’s also important that I can help create communications that resonate with our members and the wider industry, which is why it was great to get hands-on with towers in the same way as they do every day. I’ve had lots of chances to grow my tower knowledge and understanding of the industry since I joined PASMA, like attending our conference back in September and watching the tower showcase get assembled, as well as being on the team for the launch of our tower safety videos for the rail sector . Towers for Users was another step in that journey and it’s definitely helped me understand the industry better and build empathy for others working in it.

Top tips

I have some top tips for anyone going to this course, especially if it’s your first time building a tower! I would personally try our quiz,“how much do you really know about towers” because even if you get some answers wrong it will really help educate you before the course. There’s also some good videos on our YouTube channel, such as the rail videos I mentioned but also a whole series of bitesize videos recorded by PASMA instructors. They’re useful for picking up some of the basics if you’ve never built a tower before. The theory session is available as an e-learning package too, so ask your training centre about that if you want. I know some people might prefer to work through the learning at their own pace. But most of all, don’t worry! I’ve learned that PASMA instructors are very knowledgeable and supportive, so they’ll make sure you learn everything you need to know. And in the end, it’s such a great feeling to receive your PASMA qualification and know you’ve earned it. Finally – thanks to GTG Training for running this course, our patient and knowledgeable instructor Alan Laurie and my teammate Johanna for a great PASMA day out. A big thanks also to our fellow delegates for being welcoming and supportive and providing so many useful tips and advice along the way!