Knowing the “Ropes”
Materials are always on the move. According to OSHA “the mishandling of materials is the single largest cause of accidents and injuries in the workplace” (OSHA 3072 - 1996). To and from, or on, the jobsite these everyday occurrences need to be completed safely and efficiently by electing the correct equipment for the task at hand and making sure that the equipment is in safe working order. Rope is common for material handling equipment such as winch lines, hand line sets, and slings. Having rope equipment built to the correct specifications, used properly, maintained and inspected, is important to ensuring safety standards are being met in the field.
Selecting the Right Material for the Job
When selecting the right rope for the job, consider the working load of the job at hand, as well as the weight per square foot of the job.
A three-strand, hi power twisted rope is typically used for building hand line sets up to 150 feet long. These 3-strand ropes are constructed of polyester and polyolefin yarns. Polyester jackets will provide abrasion and ultraviolet resistance. On sets that are 150 feet or longer, a 12-strand, single braid high-tenacity polyester rope, such as Esterplex, is recommended because it is less likely to twist or torque while in use.
When selecting a rope for winch lines, look for high-tenacity polyester rope that is constructed of a parallel braid over braid construction, and also has a polyester core, such as Rhino-flex. This will have a low stretch and high strength, as well as offering ultraviolet degradation. This type of rope will also be especially suited for prolonged exposure outdoors. Rhino-flex rope also offers good dielectric properties. Electing to add additional materials to your winch line such as nylon wear sleeves, bronze eye thimbles, and winch line hooks with protective spools and shields, will help prolong the life of your winch line rope.
Because a high strength and low-stretch is also required for slings as well, using Esterplex for this application would also be ideal. Rope slings should also be constructed with nylon chafe and lift collars to avoid compromising damage.
Building hand line sets, winch lines and rope slings should always be done by a professional supplier, such as Hi-Line Utility Supply. Hi-Line has been assembling custom rope sets for over 50 years and takes the necessary steps to ensure your equipment is built for strength and stability.
All equipment should be inspected prior to use, and rope equipment is no exception. A daily inspection before use should always include a thorough review of the rope and all attachments. Scan the rope for any cuts, gouges, worn surfaces, fraying, melting or charring. Any buildup of powder-like sawdust on the inside of a fiber rope indicates excessive internal wear and that the equipment is unsafe. Look for any broken or worn stitches. On color-coated 12-strand ropes, such as the Esterplex ropes used to build slings and longer hand line sets, an exposure of the white interior polyester core should be considered damaged. Using a fingernail, lightly scratch rope fibers look for the easy separation of the fibers. Inspect any hooks, eye thimbles, and blocks for broken parts or corrosion.
If any damage is discovered during on-site inspection, the rope should be sent in for a professional assessment. Hi-Line Utility Supply has provided thousands of rope inspections for customers since opening its doors in 1960. Experienced and professionally-trained inspectors will visual inspect every inch of the rope and will determine if the equipment is still safe for use. A rope inspection will typically take two hours or more, per 500 feet of rope. On hand lines and winch lines, Hi-Line will also salvage any good parts and rope, by making short sets or replacing rope and damaged parts. Many customers choose to have lines sent in for inspection after a large job, so the line is ready for the next job. Even if no damage is suspected and depending on the use of the rope, a company best practice is to professionally inspect the rope every year. Manufacturers such as Greenlee, recommend Hi-Line to their customers for rope inspections. Phil Tambouridis, regional manager for Greenlee, states “Greenlee suggests Hi Line for rope inspection because we know that they are a great fit for the work! We have a high level of confidence that our end users will be satisfied by their value, technical expertise and phenomenal customer service.”
Care and Keeping
Prolonging the life of your rope and keeping it in safe working order can be easily done through a few extra steps. When getting ready to store rope, ensure that it is not kinked or knotted, and that it is completely dry. Keep rope products in a water-resistant bag when storing, and place them in a cool, dark, and dry area, out of the sunlight. When ordering your rope equipment, ensure they are built with nylon chafe, lift or wear sleeves, in addition to eye thimbles, and that hooks have protective spools and shields to guard the rope at excessive wear points.
Even the strongest rope can be compromised if operational safety is not followed. As always, consult your company’s safe work practices before starting any job. Always load evenly, and make sure that a load is securely attached. Never load beyond rated capacity. A sling, for example, will have a marking or a tag indicating the rated capacity (see photo). When lifting loads, keep personnel clear of the load being lifted- this includes keeping fingers away from the load. During movement, take care not to jerk a load, as this can overload the sling and cause it to give way—this is also referred to as “shocking” a load.
When working with hand lines, winch lines, and rope slings, always make sure you “know the ropes” by getting the right equipment for the job, take time for inspection and care, and also use the equipment safely. If unsure, look to a professional company to inspect the rope and help confirm whether it is safe to use.