Rowe Transfer has been recognized by the Great West Casualty Company’s National Safety Awards for almost a decade, and we pride ourselves on putting safety at the heart of every job we undertake. Rigging safety is not a simple matter, though. Moving each piece of heavy equipment requires specific tools and calibrations and insight from in-house engineers to ensure each stage of the job is implemented smoothly. To help you understand the work we do—and to help you keep you make sure your rigging company is following industry best practices—we’ve assembled a list of key rigging safety rules.

Why Is Rigging Safety So Important?

Before we dig into how to keep machinery and the people moving it safe during the rigging and lifting process, let’s take a minute to talk about exactly what kind of safety hazards are involved. The most dramatic rigging safety incident is a rigging or sling failure—when a sling or wire rope breaks, dropping the load. This is the worst-case scenario in rigging and can cause loss of limb or death, as well as destruction of hundreds of thousands of dollars of machinery.

But rigging involves multiple other hazards, ranging from sprains and chronic overstrains to electrocution. The Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) identifies three key areas of safety hazards for rigging:

  1. Fall Hazards: Caused by wet, uneven or obstructed work surfaces.
  2. Struck-by and Crushing Hazards: Caused by moving parts or equipment, defective rigging equipment, or poorly planned rigs that put people in hazardous locations.
  3. Electrical Hazards: Caused by rigging and hoisting near electricity lines or equipment not being properly grounded.

What is a Qualified Rigger?

Because of the high level of safety hazards associated with rigging, OSHA requires qualified riggers to assemble and disassemble work during hoisting activities or whenever workers are within the fall zone and hooking, unhooking or guiding a load. Qualified riggers aren’t trained or certified by an accredited organization, but OSHA does set out a few guidelines for credentialing.

According to OSHA, a qualified rigger is a person that:

  • possesses a recognized degree, certificate or professional standing, or
  • has extensive knowledge, training, and experience, and
  • can successfully demonstrate the ability to solve problems related to rigging loads.

The qualified rigger is responsible for multiple elements of the rigging job, including:

  • Ensuring that the crane’s surface is level and firm enough to support the crane and load
  • Anticipating rigging issues
  • Stopping a job immediately if unsafe conditions arise
  • Calculating the weight of the load and balancing it against the capacities of the crane and rigging gear

Not all riggers are qualified for the task at hand—a construction rigger with decades of experience might struggle to rig assembly line components or to transport hazardous medical equipment. It’s each rigging company’s job to ensure that the qualified rigger has experience with the job’s exact load type and the lifts and equipment that need to be used.

Top 3 Reasons Why Rigging Systems Fail

  1. Improper Rig 

The qualified rigger must understand the requirements for heavy load rigging systems and be familiar with rigging techniques. They must be able to calculate the working load limit of their rigging equipment and choose hardware for every element of the job — ranging from slings, shackles, hooks, hoists and blocks to chains and wire rope — based on their equipment rating. They have to consider the location and exact demands of the rigging job and take into account the possibility of the load causing abrasions to the sling.

2. Faulty Equipment

One of the most basic safety rules in rigging is to inspect all equipment multiple times before use. Synthetic web slings and round slings are common in rigging, but susceptible to weakening and rips in extreme temperatures or in contact with certain chemicals. They can also tear because of abrasions caused by heavy or unsettled loads. Chain slings can also have bent or stretched links if overused or exposed to heat or chemicals.

3. Overload

Overload is one of the biggest issues in rigging. All rigging equipment has a workload limit, and the best practice is to make sure that your load’s estimated weight is well within all your equipment’s limits. It’s essential that your rigging professionals calculate the load weight to plan the rigging and hoisting job, but it’s difficult to estimate the weight of some large pieces of machinery. Rigging professionals might also forget to include the weight of rigging equipment below the hook when calculating weight, which results in overload.

6 Rules for Rigging Safety

  1. Double Check Weights

Calculating the total load weight is one of the most important elements of rigging. Riggers should check and recheck their load weights before the lift, and also double check each piece of equipment’s working load limit. Be sure to include below-the-hook devices such as lifting beams and spreader bars.

2. Designate a Spotter

Designating a person to critically examine the rig allows for an extra layer of safety. Spotters stand apart and view the rig from either a higher vantage point or a more objective one than the people operating the rigging machinery. Like qualified riggers, spotters must be trained and qualified in rigging techniques and the communication methods for rigging sites.

3. Have a Pre-Lift Checklist

Does the upper suspension form a straight line with the load hook? Does the load have enough swinging space? Have you taken the weather into account (i.e. is it windy, raining or extremely hot)? Creating a pre-lift checklist can ensure that the rigger and any spotters don’t miss any key details.

4. Do a Test Lift

There are multiple elements involved in proper rigging techniques. The rigger must decide which hitch provides the best support and connection for the job. Riggers must determine the load’s center of gravity and ensure load control. They must understand the sling’s angles and calculate the tension in each sling leg. Doing a test lift can ensure that everything is in order before the equipment meets its maximum strain.

5. Inspect Your Hardware

Rigging hardware should be inspected multiple times by different individuals before the job commences. Workers should look closely for tears or abrasions on slings, cracks or corrosion on chains and hooks, etc. 

6. Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Before the rigging job commences, a qualified person needs to inspect the environment to ensure the crane foundation is stable and solid. They should also navigate how to avoid obstructions and power lines before the lift begins. Safety protocol requires maintaining at least 10 feet from energized power lines at all times. All workers should be aware of their proximity to the load at all times and never stand under it.

An East Tennessee Rigging Company with the Highest Safety Record

Rowe Transfer has been in the rigging and transfer business for over 100 years, and we have always put safety at the heart of our work. We specialize in moving loads that are too big or difficult for most transportation companies to handle, and we consistently win awards for our adherence to safety protocol and safety record.

Whether you need a piece of heavy equipment moved across town or across the county, we have you covered. We will work with you every step of the way, from planning through execution, so you can have peace of mind that your heavy equipment will be safe and secure during the entire transportation process. If you are ready to enlist our help in shipping heavy equipment, give us a call today at 865-523-0421 or reach out to us online.