Wire rope and cranes are joined at the hip when endeavoring to lift, move or transport materials. For centuries the combination of rope (sisal, manila, vegetable, steel, synthetic…) and a winching system have stirred the imagination of engineers and other interested persons in aiding the lifting and handling of heavy objects.

Giant strides in the development of the “crane and rope” system have led to unimaginable progress in leaps and bounds in today’s world. One thing that has remained constant over many decades is the fact that all types of rope used on cranes do eventually wear our and must be replaced.

This article focuses on actual wire rope failures, or near failures, that have occurred. The fact that all wire ropes on a crane will deteriorate over periods of operation is a universal truth, but the useful service life of wire rope will vary according to applications, operating conditions, working environment, type of crane, crane operator and other factors. Therefore, it is a necessity that proper inspection, maintenance and retirement criteria be firmly established to achieve safe and efficient working conditions.

The industry accepted sources for inspection and retirement procedures are listed in the ASME B 30.5 Safety Standard for Mobile Cranes & Locomotive (Photograph #1), and the OSHA Regulation CFR 29 1926 .552 OSHA Regulations on Cranes & Derricks.

When a wire rope on a crane fails, traumatic consequences will likely follow. At the very least, equipment damage and downtime will ensue, but more importantly lives many times are lost. These wire rope failures are mostly, not because of structural causes, but from human error, neglect, lack of training or not following known instructions. In my experience, the three main reasons for wire rope failures on cranes are misuse, abuse and overuse.

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