Chain hoists (sometimes referred to as chain falls or their older term, ‘chain blocks’) are popular piece of equipment to lift heavy loads. A chain hoist is durable and allows heavy loads to be lifted with ease since they require much less strength on the part of the rigger. However, this means they’re more likely to be abused since they typically make a lift much easier, but are not suited for every application.
Rigger Colin Grieg of Brampton, Ontario shared what to look for when inspecting your chain hoist and tips for use.
- Clean the load chain with a solvent, then add slack to the chain and make a link-by-link inspection for nicks, gouges, twisted links and excessive wear or stretch;
- That the load chain anchor pin is in good condition;
- That the top and bottom hook safety catches are operating correctly;
- Check hooks for cracks, damage, distortion and excessive throat opening – a damaged hook often means it was misused and should be removed from service;
- Hooks swivel freely;
- Check name plate and see that SWL, ID number and colour code (if used) are clearly visible.
After installation and mounting, check:
- That load chain sits correctly in the pocket wheel. To do this, run the unloaded hook up and down a reasonable distance – the chain should run free of snags or binds;
- The hoist is rigged to lift in a straight line from hook to hook;
- The hoist is free to swivel on the upper hook;
- For damage on the handwheel and gear covers.
CHAIN HOISTS: hand chain
Although hand chains are not load bearing, make sure:
- The chain is free of twists and damage to links;
- The chain is smooth to touch and ‘joint’ links sit firmly in the chain wheel’s pocket;
- The chain wheel turns freely with no signs of a bent spindle, buckled wheel or damaged ‘chain pockets’;
- Make sure operation in ‘hoist’ mode produces a ‘hard’ sound – this is the sound of a ratchet running under a spring-loaded pawl.
CHAIN HOISTS: safety first
- If the chain’s twisted, don’t use the hoist;
- Don’t use the load chain as part of a sling configuration;
- Chain hoists can only be used at its maximum capacity to lift a load vertically – if you must lift a load at an angle, the hoist’s capacity is greatly reduced;
- Don’t operate a chain hoist beyond the capacity specified – you will cause the bottom hook to run beyond it’s range of lift, and possibly add too much weight to the load-chain slack-end anchorage;
- Don’t lift a load beyond it’s specified SWL (safe-working load);
- Don’t let dirt, grease or other harmful debris/chemicals to collect in the load’s profile or hand-chain wheels;
- Don’t use your load chain if it jumps, is not ‘smooth’ or has marks – this means it’s likely ‘out of pitch’ and should be replaced and removed from service;
- You should not need extra force/strength to operate your chain hoist – if using extra strength, stop the lift immediately and find the cause. (An easy tip? If it takes more than one man – something’s wrong!)
CHAIN HOISTS: post-mount & pre-use
After you mount your chain hoist but before you actually use it, you should inspect the following:
- The chain hoist shouldn’t be allowed to lay against a support, since this can cause the hook or frame to bend and damage the unit;
- Make sure the hoist can swivel through 360° on the top hook;
- Make sure the ‘member’ the hoist hangs from is sat all the way in the middle of the chain hoist’s saddle.
CHAIN HOIST: crane hooks
When you suspend a chain hoist from a crane hook, stay safe with these tips:
- The chain hoist’s SWL will be reduced by 15% – this allows dynamic loading;
- A safety link with a SWL of 5 times the load weight should be fit between the crane hook and load shackle;
- Before you hoist with a crane, conduct a short lift test with both to make sure the hoist brake is locked.
CHAIN HOIST: storage
To store your chain hoist:
- Raise bottom hook
- Wrap load chain
- Wrap hand chain
- Secure ends
When storing your chain hoist, be sure to:
- Lubricate chain hoist with oil or grease – be careful, as misapplied lubricant may enter the brake disc and cause it to fail under the load;
- Make sure you have a dedicated spot to store your chain hoist – this place should be dry and free from injurious pollution and extremes of temperature;
- Chain hoists should be suspended by their top hooks, and the hand chain should be clear of the ground – this will prevent damage to the chains;
- Don’t use strong solvents on your chain hoist – ensure wet or dirty chain hoists are clean before storing.
CHAIN HOIST HOW-TO: light load brake lock-out test
- Suspend chain hoist from a suitable lifting point, and apply a load test of 5% chain hoist SWL to the load hook;
- Stay clear of the load – raise test load 70 to 100mm from the ground;
- Enter restraint pin through lack side of load chain;
- Operate the chain hoist and lower the direction until the restraint pin gives a lock against the heavy pull of the chain hoist;
- Remove the restraint pin and make sure the brake engages right away, which will stop the load from dropping;
- If the load drops – don’t use the chain hoist. Remove them from service, and have them repaired.