OSHA Regulations for Sling Safety Pt.1: Picking Rigging Supplies

Being able to move heavy and bulky materials is a vital segment of many businesses. Without specialized tools for lifting, business, in many cases, would not be possible. Considering material handling is such an essential part of many industries, it is important to remember safety protocols when using material handling equipment. Mishandling equipment and parts will waste time and money. It is imperative to understand that this heavy machinery can potentially be deadly if misused. According to OSHA.gov, the single most common cause of injury and damage in the workplace is related to human error or mishandling.wire rope

The most common lifting apparatuses found in workshops, warehouses, and factories are: 

  • Cranes
  • Derricks
  • Hoists
  • Conveyors
  • Powered industrial trucks

Hoists, cranes, and derricks rely on slings to suspend loads, and so slings are widely considered the most common material for handling apparatuses. Understanding safe sling operations and OSHA regulations will significantly reduce risks to workers, products, and property.

The first line of defense for safe crane usage is a well-trained crane operator. At all times, an operator must demonstrate intelligence, common sense, and care. For instance, different lifting slings serve various functions, and it is crucial for operators to choose tools based on the specifics of the job. The operator must select the type, size, and conditions of the workplace.  The worker must inspect slings visually before each use, to ensure effectiveness. 

Not only can a good crane operator save lives and money, but they can also substantially extend the working life of the machine. Frequently, devices come to early retirement because they were misused and overworked. Well trained operators know how to circumvent the hazardous effects of lifting. Another mark of a good operator is their continued dedication to safety while not lifting or moving loads. The crane operator should be a leader in carrying-out safety measures throughout the facility. 

Slings come in different types so that different jobs can be done safely and efficiently. Knowing when to use appropriate slings will help keep workers safe and working. Slings can be broken down into one of six categories:

  1. Chain
  2. Metal mesh
  3. Wire rope
  4. Natural fiber rope
  5. Synthetic we
  6. Synthetic fiber rope

The above slings are generally, because of use and inspection procedures, divided into three groups that include: chain, fiber rope web, and wire rope/mesh. Each above type has its characteristics, which comes with advantages and disadvantages. Many influences should be well-thought-out when choosing an appropriate sling for your specific job. Factors to consider include:

  • Environmental conditions in which sling will operate
  • Size
  • Fragility of materials
  • Common weight of loads
  • Shape
  • Operation temperature


Chains are commonly employed because they boast high strengths relative to other options. They are also easily able to conform to the shape of specific loads. Of course, all types have their drawbacks. For chains, it is essential to be careful regarding sudden shocks, which will cause damage. Misusing the chain sling will more than likely lead to damage to the sling (resulting in failure).

If the load you are lifting has a high temperature, then chains are perfect. They can be heated to temperatures around 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit (or 538 degrees Celsius). Just because high heats can be reached that does not mean they should be sustained for prolonged periods of time. Any chain sling that has a consistent service temperature of 600 degrees Fahrenheit must have its working load limit reduced to the recommendations of the manufacturer.  

Steel chain slings must be inspected before use to ensure safety. Look for stretching, nicks, gouges, and wear in excess. All the above signs are clear indicators that the sling is in a compromised state. It may still work when lifting, but it should be no surprise if things do go poorly.

Wire ropes are another commonly used type of sling. Wire rope consists of many individual wires that are wrapped and twisted to form strong strands. Different cores are built into the rope to enhance specific characteristics. For instance, when wire rope has a fiber core, it is generally more flexible but less resistant to environmental corrosion. Cores that consist of wire rope strands are strong and can withstand higher heats. 

The lay of the rope also helps to define the final product. Lay refers to the direction of twisting wires and strands during the construction process. The most common direction is right-lay because it offers users the widest range of applications. Lang lay and left lay are also options. 

Fiber ropes and synthetic webs

Fiber ropes and synthetic webs are mostly used for temporary work. Typical jobs frequently include construction, marine operations, and painting jobs. They also work well for expensive loads that have highly finished parts, delicate equipment, or fragile parts. Do not use fiber ropes near caustics or acids because the material will deteriorate. Each synthetic material has unique characteristics, and so they should always be used with the manufacturer’s recommendations and instructions in mind. 

When it comes to safety and material handling, picking the right rigging supplies is the first step to keeping employees, materials, and facilities out of harm's way. Regardless of using wire rope or nylon slings, make sure safety is the most crucial part of production and operation.

Part 2 of the entry will discuss OSHA standards for safe lifting practices and maintenance of slings.


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