When it comes to moving heavy equipment, sometimes a lifting sling alone isn’t enough to safely move the load. Unbalanced or heavy loads may need more stability or capacity than a sling can provide on its own. That’s when below-the-hook lifting devices like spreader beams and lifting beams come in handy. These beams increase the efficiency and safety of the lift and help to keep the load level with the ground. While both types of beams are used to stabilize and support loads in overhead rigging, they aren’t the same thing. Find out the differences between lifting beams and spreader beams and when they should each be used.

What Is a Lifting Beam?

Lifting beams are designed to provide additional pick points when one pick point isn’t enough for a load to be stable when lifted. A lifting beam attaches directly to a crane hook from a single central point and has two or more evenly spaced points along its base to attach to loads, or it may have a few adjustable attachment points along the bottom. Because of their structure, lifting beams convert lifting loads into bending forces on the beam, so for heavier loads, a larger, stronger, heavier beam is necessary.

Advantages of Lifting Beams

Lifting beams are great for lighter loads and shorter span lifts. Because they have only a single attachment on top that can connect directly to a crane, lifting beams do not need much headroom. This makes them ideal for rigging projects where overhead space is limited.

A lifting beam also has multiple lifting points on its underside—some of which may be adjustable—which allows it to be configured for many different applications and types of loads. An adjustable lifting beam can:

  • Handle unbalanced loads
  • Control inward crushing forces
  • Be used with special securement attachments

Lifting beams are perfect for lifting loads that are either too weak or too flexible to be lifted without support. For example, steel plates or long, thin sheets of metal can be easily lifted with a rigid, heavy-duty lifting beam.

Disadvantages of Lifting Beams

Though the rigidity of lifting beams can be an advantage, it is also a disadvantage. The beams are rigid and heavy to counteract the bending forces applied to them, which means they must use more material, so they tend to be on the more expensive side. Because they attach to a crane at a single point, lifting beams are also subject to spinning or tipping the load. To prevent this, a tag line may be required to keep the load level.

What Is a Spreader Beam?

A spreader beam is a metal beam that holds two lifting slings apart. It has two upper lugs that attach to the crane’s slings, and the bottom two lugs attach to the load. This allows the spreader beam to convert lifting loads into compressive forces in the beam and tensile forces in the slings. It also evenly distributes the weight of the load so that it is even on both slings. Spreader beams are often adjustable in length, which makes them versatile to use for a variety of different rigging jobs.

Advantages of Spreader Beams

Because spreader beams convert lifting loads into compressive forces, they are highly efficient in their use of material, which means they tend to be smaller, lighter, and less expensive than lifting beams. The two lifting points on a spreader beam allows the weight of the load to be evenly distributed across the beam, eliminating the stress of a crane lifting from a single point.

When rigged properly, these beams are also able to help better control the load and can reduce the chance of the load:

  • Sliding
  • Tipping
  • Bending
  • Being crushed or damaged

Spreader beams can be fixed or adjustable. Adjustable spreader beams allow for changes in the sling angle and the length of the beam itself to account for off-center loads.

Disadvantages of Spreader Beams

Spreader beams attach to a crane hook using two lifting slings. This means they require more headroom, so they’re not ideal for situations with limited overhead space. Like lifting beams, a long spreader beam or uneven load may require a tag line to keep the load under control and prevent spinning. If more support is needed, a lifting beam may work better because it has more lifting points along the bottom to support the center of the load instead of just the ends.

What Determines If a Lifting Beam or Spreader Beam Is Needed?

Both lifting beams and spreader beams help support large, cumbersome loads, and they can both be customized or configured to counteract unbalanced or off-center loads. However, as stated, the two are not the same and should be used in different situations. To decide which type of beam to use, the following factors should be considered:

  • What is being lifted
  • How it is being lifted
  • Where it is being lifted
  • The weight and span of the load

The weight and span of the load are the two biggest factors. A heavy-duty or wide load should probably be lifted with a spreader beam. If it’s a load that needs more support across its full span, then a lifting beam is the better choice since it can support in the center of the load as well. Where the load is being lifted should also be given special consideration. If there are height restraints or low headroom, then a lifting beam is likely the better option since a spreader beam requires more overhead room.

Ask the Experts at Rowe Transfer About Your Next Rigging Project

When it comes to moving heavy equipment, Rowe Transfer’s experienced rigging team knows exactly what it will take. We utilize the latest technology and equipment as well as ingenuity and dedication to make sure your rigging project is completely safely and efficiently. With a wide variety of heavy machinery, tools, and equipment at our disposal, you can rest assured that we have what it takes to properly move your equipment, no matter how big or small. We design each rigging solution to fit your unique project and will work closely with you to make sure it meets your specifications. If you are ready to trust your next rigging project to a company with over 130 years of experience, give Rowe Transfer a call today at 865-523-0421 or reach out to us online to request a quote.