Industry news — Spreader Bar vs. Lifting Beams

Spreader Bar vs. Lifting Beams

Spreader bars and lifting beams are effective pieces of equipment if you need to lift or move large and heavy objects or large fragile loads. They are used to stabilise and support the load during an overhead lift. They are covered within the scope of AS 4991.

Lifting Beams and Spreader Bars are attached to the load suspension point of a lifting machine or crane and can be used for various purposes including:

  • To reduce the headroom required when lifting long loads
  • To provide multiple lifting points
  • To handle out of balance loads
  • To provide a vertical lift with controlled or no inward pull for:
  • Eyebolts and similar lifting points
  • Loads that must be protected from crushing forces
  • To handle loads requiring special attachments such as hooks, plate clamps, etc.
  • When using two cranes in tandem
  • To provide lifting points at adjustable centres


However, there remains a lot of confusion regarding the differences between the two in terms of design, usage and maintenance. The main difference between the two types of lifting devices is the types of forces that are applied to the beam.

Spreader Bar (Beam)

Any beam where the load being lifted mainly puts a compressive stress in the beam.

Two lifting lugs on the top of the beam attach to the legs of a chain sling or synthetic sling at a particular angle designed to ensure pure compression. This evenly distributes the weight of the load across the two slings, which then connect to a crane, hoist, or other lifting machine. Two lugs on the bottom (one at each end) connect to a sling or hook which are then connected to the load.

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Spreader bars convert lifting loads into compressive forces in the bar and tensile forces in the slings. Because of this, spreader beams are typically smaller, lighter, and less expensive to design and manufacture than a lifting beam.

Spreader bars also can reduce the chances of load tipping, sliding, or bending as well as crushing or damage to the load as you can control the sling angles.


Spreader bars require more headroom than a lifting beam to accommodate the overhead slings. Long beams or uneven loads may require a tag line to keep the load under control and reduce the possibility of spinning.

Lifting Beam

Any beam where the load being lifted puts a bending stress in the beam.

A lifting beam has a simple design consisting of a beam with a single attachment point centred on the top side of the beam for connecting to a crane, hoist, or other lifting machine. Some lifting beams may have two bails in order to engage two crane or hoist hooks. There are typically two or more evenly-spaced lifting lugs on the underside of the beam that attach to and support the load via hook or sling.


Lifting beams are ideal for lighter and shorter span lifts that don’t require a lot of headroom. Lifting beams are also adjustable and provide multiple lifting points. This design allows lifting beams to handle out-of-balance loads, control inward crushing forces and utilize special load securement attachments.


Lifting beams are more rigid, use more material, and are heavier than an equivalent spreader beam to counteract the bending forces being applied to the beam. Therefore, they don’t use material as efficiently as a spreader beam and tend to be more expensive.

Whilst both types of beams distribute the weight of the load to make it more stable, they do so in slightly different ways.  There are positives and negatives to using a spreader bar or a lifting beam. Ranger offers a vast selection of lifting beams and spreader bars in common sizes and configurations. We can also work with you to tailor and custom engineer lifting products. To find out how call one of our Ranger staff today on 1300SLING.

Maintenance and Inspection

All lifting devices shall be inspected for correct operation and structural integrity at a frequency in accordance with the conditions of use and the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Where the correct inspection frequency is unknown, guidance may be obtained from AS 2550.1.

During the inspection, consider the general appearance of the beam, paying attention to the following:

  1. The location of the inspection shall be adequately lit
  2. Clean the lifting device before it is inspected
  3. Measure worn components to determine the degree of wear, which shall not exceed that allowed. Wear may be tolerated until the thickness of any worn section has been reduced by 10% or other specified value of the nominal section in any plane
  4. Inspect all components for signs of wear at their load-bearing or highly stressed Signs of wear include nicks, cracks, gouging, stretching or distortion