For any tower or steeple keeper safety means two things, not necessarily separate; his or her safety and the safety of others, whilst working on bells and bell frames.
- The tower keeper’s own safety is perhaps best put as a series of do’s and don’ts as follows:Always try to ensure that you are accompanied, or at least ensure that someone knows that you are working in the tower. Tell them what time you expect to finish and then inform them when you have finished.
- If you have a mobile phone then take it with you. Check before commencing work that you have a signal and keep it with you. You can’t call for assistance if you leave the phone in a toolbox on the floor below you.
- Make sure that the ladders and floors are sound and can support you and any equipment that you are carrying.
- Always have enough light to see what you are doing and always use a circuit breaker when using 240v mains power for lighting and power tools.
- Where possible pull the bell ropes clear of the ringing chamber so that you are not trapped or injured by a bell being unexpectedly swung.
- Leave a clear notice in the ringing chamber that operatives are working on the bells and leave notices on all light switches so that you are not suddenly plunged into darkness.
- Try to avoid working on bells that are up. If you do have to work on a bell in the up position, securely rope the wheel spokes to the upper frame (both sides of the wheel) and also secure the stay to the bell frame.
- Wear personal protective clothing including goggles to prevent debris from entering your eyes. Always wear a facemask when clearing up accumulated debris.
- Never smoke in the tower and don’t tackle a large job alone. If in doubt consult the DAC bell advisor or a Belfry Inspector.
Major works other than routine maintenance ‘de minimis’ will almost certainly require an Archdeacon’s Certificate, or Faculty. The 1993 Code of Practice issued by the Council for the Care of Churches, on the conservation and repair of bells and bell frames, should be adhered to when work is being undertaken.