Synthetic slings are used in dozens of industries for a variety of lifting and rigging procedures. They’re convenient, strong, economical, and generally safe to use. However, that doesn’t mean your lifting team can skimp when it comes to safety protocols and procedures.

CICB, a well-respected rigging, and lifting training center have found that crane-related accidents are on the rise. Roughly 90 lift and material handling equipment workers are killed every year. Unfortunately, 90 percent of these lifting accidents are caused by human error.

As professionals in the industry, it’s everyone’s job to understand how to use items like synthetic slings safely – both for the sake of load protection and human safety. We can minimize worker injuries and death by educating others on rigging procedures.

Let’s talk about the most important elements of synthetic sling safety and how you can make your workplace a more secure, risk-free environment.

Watching for Signs of Abrasion Is Essential

The first thing to do is to watch avidly for signs of serious abrasion on any of your slings.

Over time, abrasion damage occurs when the sling tightens around rough loads or is pulled out from underneath loads, scraping against sharp edges and materials. Constant contact with tough surfaces leads to weakness as well as wear and tear.

The most common instances of abrasion damage occur when your sling slips while lifting a load. You’ll notice frayed fibers on the surface, in the webbing that should keep the load-bearing fibers in place.

At the first sign of abrasion, you need to consider pulling the synthetic sling from the workplace. Further abrasion will pose a serious risk, including the chances of lowered lifting capacity and the increased likelihood of dropped/damaged loads.

Some synthetic slings stand up to abrasion better than others. Still, you always need to check slings before and after use to determine if the abrasion damage is serious enough to warrant further action.

Ways to Prevent Sling Abrasion

Luckily, there are ways to minimize/prevent sling abrasion, even while loading items with sharp edges. Here are two of the most popular methods.

  • Sling Wear Pads

These pads cover slings and protect them from both cuts and abrasions. They act as a buffer between the rough load edge and the sensitive material of the sling. Many wear pads increase sling life and help prevent cuts that lead to property damage and injuries.

  • Synthetic Armor

Much like sling wear pads, synthetic armor pads wrap around areas of the sling that will come in contact with things like rough beams. Not only do they protect the load from damage, but they also prevent the sling from scratching against concrete structures.

You Need to Know What Pressure Level Is Acceptable

Next, pay attention to your synthetic sling’s protective barrier and pressure levels.

Each synthetic sling has a protective barrier to prevent pressure from damaging it. However, if you lift a load with a diameter that can sever this protective barrier due to high pressure, you have a real problem. Experts would recommend not using the sling is the protective layer has been or will be compromised.

You’ll note that all synthetic slings are rated for their maxim load capacity. Adhering to this restriction is a smart way to prevent pressure levels from exceeding their safe limits.

If you can’t see any load capacity indicated on the sling, that’s a bad sign – OSHA and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) both require that slings be tagged with the information.

Pressure levels and lifting capacities are determined by the material the sling is made of. Don’t assume anything – read exactly what the synthetic sling can handle. Otherwise, you jeopardize the safety of your loads and those around you.

Employee Oversight Creates the Biggest Risk

According to OSHA,

“Injury and illness prevention programs provide the foundation for breakthrough changes in the way employers identify and control hazards, leading to a significantly improved workplace health and safety environment.”

In other words, synthetic sling safety (and general lifting and rigging protection) starts with a strong employee training foundation. Employees must know what kind of regulations and requirements they’re dealing with. They must also be prepared to inspect and use equipment as necessary.

A “competent” rigging worker is someone who is:

  • Capable of identifying existing or potential hazards
  • Ready to take prompt corrective action
  • Trained to use equipment properly

The more competent employees you have on your job site, the lower your risk of injuries and damage will be. That includes the lowered risk of synthetic sling related accidents.

Ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Do your workers really know how to use their tools safely?
  2. Could you do more to educate them on abrasion and pressure risks?

If you’re like most rigging organizations, there’s always room for improvement.

Slings should be inspected each day before being used. This includes looking at all of the fastenings and attachments for your synthetic slings. Then, after use, employees should survey the sling again for signs of damage or defects.

At the slightest notice of damage, the sling should be removed from use, either to be discarded or properly repaired.

Teach your employees to watch out for loads with sharp edges and corners. These can cut slings, especially when they’re made of synthetic materials. After lifting potentially dangerous loads, a post-use inspection is more vital than ever.

Tips for Avoiding Problems with Employee Oversight

1. Designate an “Inspector”

Don’t leave synthetic sling inspections to just anyone. Designate a qualified person(s) to inspect slings before and after use for signs of damage. That way, the same people can notice long-term problems and understand how frequently the sling is used.

2. Schedule Periodic Sling Inspections

It’s difficult to keep up with daily inspections. To cover yourself, schedule periodic synthetic sling inspections at least once a year.

3. Teach Employees What to Look For

Your inspector might know to look for “damage,” but do they know all the signs of a compromised synthetic sling? Educate them on symptoms of a dangerously affected sling. These include:

  • Acid urns
  • Missing/illegible sling identification info
  • Holes
  • Tears
  • Cuts
  • Knots
  • Excessive abrasion
  • Broken/worn stitching
  • Corrosion
  • Cracks
  • Gouges
  • Discoloration
  • Brittleness

All of your employees inspecting your synthetic slings should be well-versed in sling types, sling applications, and inspection procedures.

Don’t let a lack of employee training and/or awareness lead to accidents at your workplace. Minimize all risks by understanding how to educate workers before dangerous situations present themselves.

In Conclusion

The more effort you put into understanding synthetic sling safety now, the more injuries, damage, and even fatalities you’ll prevent in the future. Training and preventative measures are infinitely more important than learning how to react when things go wrong.

At Holloway Houston Inc., we’re all about keeping our clients safe. That’s why every product we sell is thoroughly tested for quality and security. From synthetic slings to chains and wire ropes, all of our products can be trusted.

Do you have questions about synthetic sling safety? Looking for the right sling for your project?

Contact Holloway Houston Inc. online or call 713-674-8352. We’ll steer you in the right direction and make your rigging job site a safer place.