7 Ways to Stay Safe While Binding and Releasing Heavy Loads

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In 2018, an employee of the University of Washington sustained a head injury while releasing a lever load binder (also called a snap binder) with the aid of a cheater bar. As a result, the university decided to “replace all lever-load binders with the safer ratchet-type binders,” since they’re easier to engage with less force, and the built-up tension in the chain can be released slowly, as the ratchet unwinds the chain a bit at a time.

Meanwhile, the University of Washington isn’t the only institution concerned about the hazards of lever binders. In the past ten years, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has recorded almost 60 serious injuries and deaths of employees struck in the head or throat by boomers when the tention ws abruptly released.

One such incident, in 2013, shows than an anonymous employee was struck in the throat by a load binder. They ended up needing three weeks of hospitalization, a tracheotomy, and a voice box surgery to recover from their injuries.

As these examples demonstrate, there are plenty of risks involved in securing and unbinding loads with G70 chains. Fortunately, there are also ways to mitigate those risks. These seven strategies can empower you to load and unload your cargo more safely.

1. Follow State DOT Laws

The Department of Transportation enacts laws and parameters to keep all of us safe on the road. The most crucial of these laws regard Working Load Limits (often abbreviated WLL). Binders and chains will both have their WLL printed in them. Know the weight of your load, and follow DOT law by making sure you don’t exceed the WLL of any chain or binder you’re using. Loads that are too heavy can exert too much tension, making binding even more dangerous. Kindly find the different three types of chain binders in the following image.

Three Types of Chain Binders

It’s also notable that, in the states of Michigan and Colorado, using lever binders violates the State Department of Transportation regulations. Because of this, some stores no longer sell level binders. If you’re crossing into Michigan or Colorado with your haul, it’s important to follow the DOT regulations there.

2. Use a Ratchet Binder Instead of a Lever Binder

Even if you’re sticking to states where lever binders are legal, ratchet binders are still safer. Ratchet binders, sometimes called ratchet boomers or turnbuckle ratchet binders, are the least-risky tool for the job.

Ratchet Binders

The reason The University of Washington switched to ratchet binders is because ratchet binders have been implicated in far fewer accidents than lever binders, in part because ratchet binders have an independent cam mechanism.

According to Experts Opinion;

Experts are taking note of the difference.

In the 2007 professional bulletin Army Logistician: Logistics in the Deep Future, Navy Engineer Dr. Keith Aliberti recommends that the military use ratchet binders exclusively in the future. “Ratchet-type load binders are preferable to levered load binders,” Aliberti writes. “Ratchet load binders are much safer devices for operators to use.”

In Australia, safety regulators decided to study the issue of the relative risks of lever boomers versus other types of binders. In their 2010 study, they found that, “turnbuckle or ratchet binders substantially reduce the risk [of injury] and obtain higher pre-tension than dogs, which improves load security.”

They note that the most significant problems cargo haulers and truckers have with ratchet binders are how much wear and tear that take in harsh conditions, how long they take to use when freight has to be loaded and unloaded quickly, and the cost of the high-end versions (with low-end versions needing to be replaced more often because the threads fail.)

While these problems are absolutely significant and worth considering, it’s also worthwhile to ask: what’s the price of my health—or my life? Is investing in a ratchet boomer worth the extra cost if I’m much less likely to wind up in the hospital?

It’s also worth mentioning that, in their 2010 study, workers who were consulted and informed on how to best maintain their ratchet binders (for example, using multipurpose grease or specialty hi-viscosity boom lube as a cleaning agent) were more successful with the turnbuckle ratchet boomers. When the binders were maintained, loading and unloading freight went more smoothly, and the binders lasted longer.

3. Use a Recoiless Chain Binder

A lower-cost alternative to using a ratchet binder is getting a recoiless lever binder. Like conventional lever binders, recoiless lever binders empower workers to unload cargo more quickly than they can with ratchet binders.

Recoiless Chain Binders

The advantage of a recoiless chain binder is the independently moving center cam. Since the cam is independent, it lets the employee easily release the load binder without any prying. The one-click low-energy release effectively eliminates any risk of injury due to built-up tension causing the lever to snap back.

However, recoiless lever binders still require more force from whoever is tightening the chain than ratchet binders do in order to achieve the same degree of tension and security. Also, in states where the DOT prohibits lever binders, it’s not clear whether recoiless lever binders are an exception to the rule or not. You may risk a citation using recoiless lever binders in those states.

4. Take Advantage of Accessories Like Lever Binder Locks

Lever binders are popular, and if you already have a lot of them, it can be an expensive hassle to replace all of them. In that circumstance, lever binders can be used more safely when they’re used alongside lever binder locks and safety releases.

 

Lever binder lockLever binder locks are incredibly inexpensive. These steel locks and clips secure the handle on lever load binders to prevent accidental rotation and release of the chain tension, both while the load is in transit and when you’re starting to unload the cargo. Many models of lever lock are made of steel rope that can be threaded directly through the chain link.

A lever binder lock can compensate for a degree of slack in the binder chain, which can happen if someone struggles to exert enough force to create enough tension to secure the load as tightly as possible.  Which is great, because it reduces the temptation to use a cheater bar.

5. Don’t Use a Cheater Bar!

Using a cheater bar is incredibly dangerous. Don’t do it.

Cheater bars can overload the chain with too much tension. That can trigger a spontaneous release of tension, which could release the load during transport or cause the load binder handle to snap back quickly when someone attempts to unload the cargo.

Cheater bars can also injure someone while they’re in use. It’s too easy to lose your grip on a cheater bar, which can cause it to snap back or even whip off and hit someone else. There is no transportation of engineering expert who thinks cheater bars are safe:

  • The OSHA “vehemently discourages” the use of cheater bars.
  • The Department of Energy outright prohibits them for employees, saying, “[the cheater bar] can become a de facto catapult.”
  • The company Power Engineering notes that “the use os a cheater bar can result in component damage that, in turn, harms workers.”
  • For some jobs, using an air-powered socket wrench or a torque multiplier is a good alternative to using a cheater bar, but for flatbed trucking and binding cargo, you’re going to run into some of the same problems when you use those tools as when you use the cheater bar.
  • The truth is, flatbed truckers and cargo haulers often overestimate how tense a chain actually has to be in order to secure the cargo successfully. If you have to really strain to close and latch the binder, it’s too tight.
  • Ideally, you want to get the chain precisely as tight as you need it to be.  To do that, practice tightening the G70 chain a half-link at a time rather than a whole link at a time, so you’re not faced with a choice between slack or over-tightening.

6. Use The Best Possible Loading + Unloading Stance and Techniques

When you’re binding or unbinding, make sure you’re using the best possible stance and techniques for your safety. Here are some tips:

  • Make sure only one person is operating the lever binder at a time.
  • Keep your feet planted firmly on the ground; do not jump on the bar or climb onto the load
  • Keep yourself out of the potential “line of fire” in case you lose your grip; make sure the direction of the lever’s movement runs parallel to your torso and can’t hit your head or neck if it snaps. Don’t ever lean over the lever.
  • Bind and unbind at a steady pace. Sometimes stress or other mishaps can cause a person to feel rushed. But hurrying doesn’t actually save time, and it can cause an injury. When you feel like rushing, channel your inner zen monk: “Nature never rushes, yet everything gets done.”

7. Wear Gloves

The last strategy is simple and successful. While it may seem obvious, it’s amazing to me how many people don’t take this basic precaution. Wearing industrial gloves helps you keep your grip on a boomer, whether you’re using a ratchet binder, a lever binder, or a recoiless lever binder.

Industrial Gloves

A good grip prevents accidents and lets you keep your pace steady.

Striking the right balance of efficiency, safety, and security can be a challenge for every hauler, and at the end of the day, you know your loads best. If you keep these seven strategies in mind, you can make any type of binder work for you.

At Mytee, we’re committed to helping you haul safe and earn more. Just like implementing these strategies will keep you safer when you’re binding your loads, our affordable products will keep your budget safer when you buy the tools you need. We cut out the middleman and sell direct to you, so we can get you the high quality binders and accessories you want at the price you need.

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