Did you know? Safely Winching Crane Cables

The following article is a repost from an old Cranes Chronicles editorial from January 2014, written by our founder, Jay Sturm, about tips for safely winching crane cables. We hope you find it informative.

Winches are used increasingly in tree care operations. They are a great tool to assist in dragging larger tree limbs to the chipper, thus reducing wear-and-tear on tree crew personnel. The person operating the winch is the winch operator, and as such must ensure his or her own personal safety as well as the safety of the crew and others within the work vicinity. To keep a safe work area around the winch, the operator must understand the machine’s performance capabilities. The following recommendations are some safety guidelines to be combined with the manufacturers’ operations recommendations for the winch model being operated.

Read all warning tag information, manufacturers’ operating instructions, and learn how to use all controls before operating a winch.

In addition to the required personal protective equipment, winch operators may want to wear gloves to protect their hands from the burrs found in wire cable. When winding winch cable on the drum, do not attempt to maintain tension by allowing the cable to slip through your hands. Always use “hand-over-hand” techniques.

Daily inspection of the winch line is to be done by a qualified person or a crew member experienced with winch operations and wear and tear. Damaged or defective winch lines, hooks or attachments shall be removed from service immediately.

Dangers surrounding potential load or winch-line breakage need to be made clear to the operator, and he/she is then responsible to ensure that all personnel remain clear of the recoil area in the event of load or winch line breakage. Ground workers should stay in view of the operator and clear of the winch drum when it is in operation. A minimum no-entry distance of 1-1⁄2 times the length of the cable that is unspooled is recommended when possible.

Pulling loads from the side requires special equipment and techniques. Therefore, loads shall be pulled in line with the winch unless the winch is properly equipped with a fair lead and the operator is trained to pull loads at an angle.

Match winch line speeds to job conditions and load weight. Avoid sudden “shock” loads or attempting to “jerk” loads free. This type of operation may cause heavy loads in excess of rated capacity. Shock loading can lead to cable and/or winch damage and breakage.

Double-lining or using pulleys and/or any other rigging to increase mechanical advantage increases risk too. Increasing mechanical advantage could cause the load to exceed winch mount ratings if the load gets snagged, causing the winch mount to be damaged or broken.

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