How often do you need to inspect your equipment?
Depending on the specific piece of equipment in question, we always recommend that the relevant Australian Standard be consulted. For example, it might be AS 3775.2:2014 Chain Slings for Lifting Purposes – Grade T(80) and V(100) – Care and Use.
However, sometimes a tailored inspection policy should also be implemented to suit the requirements of a workplace, making this a complex issue and reiterating the importance of working with expert product and service providers. Generally, lifting equipment inspection is covered in two categories, as outlined in most Australian Standards:
1. In-service INSPECTIONS
2. Periodic INSPECTIONS
In-service inspection is a visual procedure to be carried out before each use of the equipment.
AS 3775.2:2014 says, prior to each use, chain slings shall be visually inspected by a competent* person. The inspection shall determine whether slings are free of any damage or wear that exceeds the allowable discard criteria and a WLL (working load limit) tag is fitted. If any defects are detected, the sling shall immediately be withdrawn from service.
In the recently released draft of AS 4497:2017 (a revision of AS 4497.1—1997 and AS 4497.2—1997), covering Round Slings—Synthetic fibre, it says that every time a sling is to be used, the user shall inspect it and be satisfied that the sling does not show any signs of damage that could affect its safe use.
It adds that particular attention should be given to circumstances, locations and atmospheres that are likely to result in accelerated damage. If a defect is found, the piece of equipment should be removed from service until a competent person carries out further inspection. It may need to be discarded. Discard criteria is covered by the standards.
Periodic inspection is more comprehensive and might involve the removal of equipment from a place of work to a location where it can be properly cleaned, analysed and the results documented. Synthetic rigging gear will generally have a shorter inspection frequency than chain or wire rope, but standards do cite exceptions where equipment is in intensive use.
AS 3775.2:2014 features an inspection guide for alloy chain slings—T(80) or V(100). Based on duty cycle M3, it says that if one to five lift cycles are taking place every week, equipment should be inspected every 12 months; six to 25 lifts weekly, inspect six-monthly; 26 to 200 lifts weekly, inspect three-monthly; and 201+ lifts weekly, inspect monthly.
It’s important to remember that it may be deemed necessary for a facility to adopt a more frequent periodic inspection procedure than that which is outlined by the standards.
ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS TO CONSIDER
Australia, like many parts of the world, has various requirements for lifting equipment, all of which present their own unique challenges. While the lifting machine, rigging and load might be important considerations, the environment when the lift is taking place is equally crucial. Lifting equipment doesn’t wear or behave in the same way in every type of location.
Take a remote, offshore location versus an urban construction site, for example. Highly abrasive elements and salt-water will be factors on the one hand while, on the other, dust and debris from surrounding work will present their own challenges. It is naive to expect the rigging gear to behave in the same way on both sites.
FREQUENCIES OF USE
Lifting and rigging equipment is like a lot of items in the home and workplace; the more it is used, the closer it gets to the end of its life. End users should be mindful that many below-the-hook products are not designed to be used every day until the end of time. A sling that is used rarely will last longer than one of the same capacity that is used every day, providing both are used and stored correctly. Duty cycle takes that analogy a step further.
LEVEL OF DUTY
Duty is sometimes overlooked. Take two identical 1-tonne capacity slings, for example. Both have the capacity written clearly on the tags; they are also the same colour. One lifts a few hundreds kilos once a day, very slowly, with the crane travelling only a short distance. The other lifts nearly a tonne many times a day, transports it the length of a workshop, lowers it and returns to the start, where another load is already waiting to be rigged. The second sling will wear much faster than the first as it brings fatigue into the equation.
Storage of equipment has a big part to play in the longevity of a product. The best way to store lifting gear is undercover, away from the elements, in a dry place. Additional care should be taken to ensure products are kept off the floor and away from moisture, dirt, grit and other corrosive agents that might be present. Consider the extremely high ultraviolet (UV) radiation present here in Australia that can wear and damage rigging gear. Salt water can also be corrosive to metals.