5 Top Tips | Caring for Wire Rope

Rigging equipment has a tough job lifting and moving heavy loads for hours and hours a day. In order for that equipment to be able to be its job, we have to take proper care of it. We expect longevity and endurance from equipment like wire rope, but that can easily turn if not properly treated. Equipment that is properly treated, handled, installed, inspected and stored will reward us with a prolonged life of service, better job performance and peace of mind in knowing it won’t fail.

Riggers don’t have the luxury of simple equipment slip-ups. If your rigging equipment fails you, it can cause damage to product, property and worst-case scenario, an extreme safety hazard resulting in injury or loss of life. Since wire rope is a material of choice in heavier lifts, extreme safety hazards can be a real possibility if you’re using rope that’s in an unsafe condition.

But that can be avoided! Here are 5 top tips to help you keep you wire rope in tip-top condition…

1. Seizing Your Wire Rope

Seizing and cutting operations are not difficult to perform, but are crucial in the performance of wire rope. Proper seizing must be applied to both rope ends to protect the wire ropes from loosening – Carelessly or inadequately seized ends may cause distortion or flattening of the rope. If you use wire rope that is not properly seized it will cause uneven distribution of the load over the strands causing the life of the wire rope to be drastically shortened.

Normally, one of two methods are used to do this. Typically method one is suitable for wire ropes with a diameter over one inch, and method two is those with a diameter one inch and under.

Method One:

  1. One end of the seizing wire is placed between the valleys of two strands.
  2. Turn another end around the rope and the fixed end of seizing wire closely and tightly at right angles.
  3. Stop turning after the proper length of seizing has been applied.
  4. Twist two ends of seizing wire together and make sure they are seizing the rope tightly.

Method Two:

  1. Wrap with small wires as shown in the picture.
  2. Twist the two ends of seizing wire together.
  3. Alternatively tight twist with end cutters.

2. Care When Unloading & Handling

If you’re dealing with loading or unloading wire rope in a reel or coil, it’s important to know that that is not a protected storage method and if you drop the reel during this process, it can lead to serious damage to your wire rope. Because of this, it is important to handle reels of wire rope with care and focus not to drop or damage the reel. Damage to the reel can also make it incredibly difficult to remove the wire rope from the reel, so it’s not only an important safety precaution but will also save you time and frustration in the future.

It’s also important to take care when removing wire rope from the reels or coils. When doing this, ensure the reel or coil is rotating as the wire rope unwinds. Below you will see some of the rights vs. wrongs for unwinding rope.

3. Installation By Trained Professionals

In the rigging field, it’s very important that workers be properly trained in any and all tasks they are performing because many lifts can become extremely dangerous if even one aspect is done incorrectly. So the most important thing to take away from this tip is to seek out proper training from certified professionals before taking on tasks like installing wire rope!

Once you have that training you will know how important it is to take into account the design factor of any equipment being used with wire rope, being sure to take note of the nominal diameter of wire rope to use with the equipment, as specified by the manufacturer. Installing an incorrect size will result in a failed rope or shorter service life as the rope can get pinched into a smaller space compromising its integrity.

Wire rope diameter is determined by measuring the outer circle of the strands, which is the greatest dimension that can be measured with a pair of parallel-jawed calipers or machinist’s caliper square. You can easily make a mistake if not taking care in measuring the largest dimension, as shown below:

 

4. Keeping up with Inspections and Assessments

Keeping up with the required inspections is something that must be prioritized for all rigging equipment. Wire rope is often used for heavy lifting, which means they are being used in situations where they are trusted to keep not just your load safe, but the people and the environment around it. That means that you have to be confident that your wire rope is up to the task – And how do you do that? Inspections!

Based on manufacturer/organization recommendations, ensure your wire rope is being inspected by a certified professional where the rope can be dismantled and tested through visual assessment and non-destructive testing. Hercules SLR can make this a worry-free part of your business – Our experience and LEEA certified team can take this completely off your hands, on-site or in our fell service rigging shops! 

On top of these professional inspections, wire rope should also be visually assessed by trained and experienced workers at the start of every shift or when resuming stalled work. Thorough visual assessments should also be carried out after reattaching or refitting the wire rope on the same or different equipment. Machine operators should be trained to visually assess the entire wire rope, with emphasis on points of attachment.

Things to look for when visually assessing a wire rope:

  • Broken Strands –  One of the easiest ways to do this is to run a cotton cloth over the length of the wire (if possible), checking for any places where the material get’s snagged. Any cable that has a single broken wire strand located around critical fatigue areas (where the cable runs around a pulley, sleeve or through a fair-lead; or any section where the cable is flexed, rubbed, or worked) must be replaced. Generally, SOME broken wires in non-critical areas are okay, but always consult your service/maintenance manual.
  • Surface Wear and Tare – Look out for any flat spots, any areas where the cable twist is unraveling, or any other condition resulting in the cable being distorted—If any of these things are present, you must replace the cable.
  • Internal Ware and Tare –  It is recommended to remove the cable whenever possible and flex them to ensure that all cables on the inside of the wire rope haven’t worn down due to environmental deterioration, distortion or fatigue. If you haven’t been keeping up with regular inspections, this is particularly necessary as it is possible for wire rope to look completely sound from the outside, but as soon as you move it around, it completely fails.

5. Proper Storage Methods

Wire rope needs to be stored in a well-ventilated, dry, and covered area and should not come in contact with the floor. If it is necessary to store it outside, they must be covered so that moisture cannot get inside and cause corrosion. You should also make sure that they are protected from dust, water, steam, salt, chemical fumes or adverse climatic conditions.

Turning the reel occasionally is a good practice to get in the habit of. This will prevent the wire rope’s lubricant from wearing off. If ropes are stored for a long time, it is advised for you to get them examined periodically and apply a coat of lubricant to them.

Bonus tip: If you live in an area that is prone to termites, protect the wooden reel by storing it on cement flooring. 


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