Chain Use

Originally published 07/22/2015

Chains are common on every construction site, and you should be aware of the best chain to use for a particular purpose.

There are different chain grades, and each one has a different use or application. These can be separated into three main categories:

  • Overhead lifting chains – only use grades 80, 100 or 120 for overhead lifting.
  • Transport hauling chains – grade 70 is excellent for load securement and tie-down applications when hauling loads.
  • Other welded industrial chains – choose 30 and 43 grade chains for pulling, agricultural and load securement applications.

Select a chain designed for the job you are doing. For instance, if you are planning to pull a vehicle out of the mud with another vehicle, you should use a chain that has a grade of 80 or above. A chain of lesser grade might break, and the snapback could injure or kill someone. While stronger chains typically won’t snap, the pulling force may cause the pulled vehicle’s hooks, bumpers and frames to bend or break.

Inspect chains on a regular basis. Wear points indicate that the chain is weaker than its original grade level. Look for wear at the points of contact between each chain link and for stretched, twisted or deformed links. Make sure that the chain flexes easily, and there is no heat exposure damage like discoloration and weld splatter.

Lifting chains should have metal tags showing the grade and load rating. If the tag is missing, do not use the chain. Never assume that an unmarked chain is strong enough for lifting.

While chains are rugged and useful tools, they will break when we exceed their limits. Use common sense with chains. Never stand directly under a load, and never modify or improperly use a chain.

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Rigging Safety

Originally published 11/04/2015

Failure to properly secure static loads for transport causes injury to people and damage to property. When securing a load against unwanted movement during hauling, employees should use the same rigging techniques for tie-down as for lifting. The consequences of rigging failure during transport can be just as disastrous as dropping a load during a high crane lift.

The quality of the rigging equipment is important. Rigging materials such as chains, straps, hooks, eye bolts and clamps are not required to meet the same standards as similar gear used for lifting. However, when using come-alongs, strap winches and other tightening devices, the strain on rigging materials can begin to approximate lift strain. When the strain on equipment caused by tightening is combined with the strain of a truck when turning quickly, climbing a steep grade or making sudden stops, the strain on equipment can equal that of lifting, and cause rigging to fail.

Most chains used for hold-in-place rigging are grade 70. While these chains are very strong, they do not meet OSHA standards and are not safe for overhead lifting. Chains that are rated for lifting are typically SGG grade 100 chains. It stands to reason that a 70-grade chain is more susceptible to wear and tear than a heavier grade chain.

To ensure safety, inspect all tie-down equipment before use as follows:

  • Test chain links for stretch and breakage.
  • Inspect hooks for deflection at the throat and twist.
  • Inspect eye bolts and other terminating attachment points for wear and deflection.
  • Test tie-down points on the truck or load surface for wear and damage.

The same procedure should be used for straps and other tie-down equipment. If the equipment shows extreme wear, don’t use it.

Additional tips for load management include:

  • Place lighter items at the bottom of the load so that heavier items can help hold them down.
  • Block items against each other, or bundle them together, to minimize shifting and movement.
  • Lay tall items flat in the truck bed or trailer, when possible.
  • Block the wheels of equipment to prevent rolling. Wrap straps around and through wheeled equipment to further secure it.
  • Cover items with a solid, waterproof tarp to prevent damage from rain and airborne debris.
  • Tag all load corners with red flags if the load extends four feet beyond the bed of the truck or trailer.

Well-secured loads provide safety for your employees as well as the motoring public.

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Mud Safety — Part 2

Sometimes mud is unavoidable. Whether you’re parked at an unpaved lot at a jobsite or pulling off the pavement to inspect a roadway, bridge or other work, odds are that at some point you’ll have to navigate some mud and muck. Below are pointers for getting a vehicle out of the mud.

Rock It Out

If the vehicle has four-wheel drive, lock it in. Put the vehicle in reverse with wheels straight, and gradually accelerate. If this is not enough to get the vehicle to solid ground, shift into low gear, and slowly power forward as much as you can. If the tires spin, turn them from side to side in an effort to get the edge of the tread to grip the surface. Repeat this back-and-forth process as long as you continue to make progress.

Add Traction

Place dry, solid objects such as floor mats, rocks, limbs or boards beneath the edge of the tire in the direction you want to drive. Reduce the amount of air pressure in the tires. recommends dropping the pressure to between 15 and 20 pounds per square inch. If the vehicle is resting on the undercarriage, use a jack to lift the tires off the ground — if the jack can sit on a solid surface. Never crawl under the vehicle while it is jacked up. Once you lift it even a few inches, you can slide a solid item beneath the tires to provide lift and traction.

Winch It Out

If you have to drive through mud on a regular basis, it is wise to outfit your vehicle with a winch. You can also use a come-along or a hi-lift jack to pull a vehicle free, provided there is a tree or other solid object close enough to wrap a recovery strap around. Check all of the hooks and eyes attached to your draw cable and use good judgment about the size of the tree or other anchor points you will need. If you are using a winch, place a blanket over the center point of the steel cables. In the event the cable snaps, the weight of the blanket should keep the cable from whipping into the air, possibly injuring you or damaging the vehicle. Loop the winch cable or recovery strap around the solid object, and use the power winch, come-along or jack to slowly pull the vehicle out of the mud. Never stand next to the winch cable or any of the fittings when the winch begins to draw tight.

Pull It Out

If another vehicle is available, the best and quickest way to get a vehicle out the mud is to pull it out. Attach a webbed recovery strap or chain to the tow hitches, frame-mounted tow hooks or the frames of both vehicles, as long as you can get to them without putting tension on less solid parts of the vehicles. Straps are best for pulling, but if you must use chains, inspect them to ensure that they are in good condition. Never attach a strap to a bumper, axles, suspension or the hitch ball as these parts are easily damaged. Put the stuck vehicle in gear. The mobile vehicle should very slowly pull most of the slack from the strap or chain and continue to accelerate gradually. The driver of the stuck vehicle should apply gradual pressure to the gas pedal as the vehicle begins to move. Bystanders should stay two to three car lengths away from the vehicles involved to ensure their safety in the event the strap or chain breaks or one of the vehicles begins to slide.