Winch Safety

Submitted: Monday, Jul 26, 2004 at 16:54
ThreadID: 15028 Views:2869 Replies:8 FollowUps:3
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Gidday fellas

I spent a number of years doing recovery in the army. My actual job was known as a RECOVERY MECHANIC. The course that the army puts you through is thorough and deals with all perspectives from doing lift tows to winch safety through to complex recovery tasks. At the beginning of the course we watched several safety films from the CATERPILLA company.

In one of these films it showed two D9 dozers with a winch rope secured in between them. Around the vehiles were various 44 gallon drums filled with water. Now granted, for the demonstration the steel wire rope (approx 9/16") was not secured overly tight to the rear of one of the dozers.The intention was for one of the dozers to drive forward and see what would happen.

The film was first shown in normal speed and once the breaking point was reached you could just see the rope let go and then the drums of water were then hit by the winch rope. Now these drums were about 120' away from the vehicles. the length of rope attached to the dozers was about 100'.

What actually happens is that the rope stretches due to its elasticity and acts just like a giant bull whip. When shown in slow motion, the whipping action of the rope could be clearly seen.

Upon completion of the demonstration the cameras showed the 44 gallon drums with a rather nice ragged slice about 12" from the top of the drum. Now just imagine if a person was standing in the path of one of these ropes. the consequences wouldn't be nice.

They also showed the telltale signs of a rope was under too much tension. When a rope is in this situation it will do what is called singing. That means the rope will start moving up and down, slightly at first and getting more violent as more tension is placed on the rope. Release the tension and it will stop singing.

Thus the army in its wisdom always ensures that in winching operations that no personell other than the crew that are operating the winches are allowed within 1 and 1/2 times the radius of the amount of winch rope that is paid out. That is to say if there is 100metres of rope out then the safety distance is a minimum of 150 metre in radius.

During the course one of the cardinal sins that you can perform is a breach of safety.

One more point I forgot to mention is NEVER EVER STEP OVER A WINCH ROPE THAT IS UNDER TENSION.

Just remember when doing anything with a winch, please exercise a little bit of COMMON SENSE.
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Reply By: Magnus - Monday, Jul 26, 2004 at 18:04

Monday, Jul 26, 2004 at 18:04

Think I will keep my soft road Mazda and stay away from winch situations.

Good timely reminder of the fact that steel ropes do stretch and quite alarmingly so.


AnswerID: 69735

Reply By: Member - JohnR (Vic) - Monday, Jul 26, 2004 at 18:27

Monday, Jul 26, 2004 at 18:27
Swerv what sage advice. It is a bit too late when the accident actually takes a leg off or the finger or hand. You can feel awfully foolish or just plain awful but it is too late after it has happened.
AnswerID: 69737

Follow Up By: Swerv - Monday, Jul 26, 2004 at 19:54

Monday, Jul 26, 2004 at 19:54
Hi John

Hindsight is a good thing however it doesn't matter what advice is given to people or how a person feels in relation to this subject. The fact remains that no matter how much advice you me or the GREAT PUMKIN gives out, another accident with a winch will happen again. We can only prepare for it and hope to christ that it won't happen again.

safe travels
FollowupID: 329990

Reply By: Biggus - Monday, Jul 26, 2004 at 20:20

Monday, Jul 26, 2004 at 20:20
Thanks for your post, you are quite right, personal safety of everybody around winch / recovery situations is THE most important aspect to be considered before you hit that wind in switch.
I have a question for you regarding how to reduce or overcome cable binding on the winch drum when doing a recovery if the winch pull is unavoidably from one side for a bit to long, apart from stopping the recovery, holding the vehicle stationary then unwinding then refeeding the winch drum properly, what suggestion / tricks could you suggest to help avoid this situation ?
AnswerID: 69770

Follow Up By: gonebush - Monday, Jul 26, 2004 at 20:59

Monday, Jul 26, 2004 at 20:59
A simple, safe and easy way is to place a snatch block along the cable, and feed the cable through it. Adjust the snatch block position, and anchor it, such that the cable is coming back into the winch fairlead in a straight line. The operator can then guide the cable onto the winch as required. The cable will form an angle as it runs through the snatch block so this is how you can winch around a corner for example.

Also secure a 'brake' to the cable on the operator side of the snatch block.

FollowupID: 329999

Reply By: Martyn (WA) - Monday, Jul 26, 2004 at 21:17

Monday, Jul 26, 2004 at 21:17
Did the people doing the training ever put anything over the wire such as a large blanket did it make / would it make any diffrence? I still wouldn't be in the close vicinity, just interested. If they're doing testing it might be interesting especially if it made the wire if it broke just remotely predictable.
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AnswerID: 69778

Follow Up By: Truckster (Vic) - Monday, Jul 26, 2004 at 23:03

Monday, Jul 26, 2004 at 23:03
check thread on OLimits, winch dampers do work well if used properly
FollowupID: 330033

Reply By: Nixon - Monday, Jul 26, 2004 at 23:36

Monday, Jul 26, 2004 at 23:36
Truckster's comments of an "air brake" are crucial. Either a sand bag, a length of chain, blanket, rubber conveyor belt will dampen or at least 1/2 the recoil of a wire rope or snatch strap that has "let go".

I have seen a guy's leg get hit by a shackle that has come adrift on the end of wire rope under extreme tension. Ten years ago, he would have lost his leg. Almost a year after the accident, the poor guy is still off work and trying to get bone to graft over the severed bone.

Please use caution and always an "air brake".

Regards, Nick
AnswerID: 69815

Reply By: CHRIS - Tuesday, Jul 27, 2004 at 09:07

Tuesday, Jul 27, 2004 at 09:07
As a former Recovery Mechanic (62 -68) what Swerv should have also mentioned is that before you winch any vehicle or load there is what is called a TPR (total pull required). This is made up of the vehicle weight-- ground resistance-- turning resistance or rolling resistance-- degrees of slope -- frictional losses-- + 25% safety factor. Example: bogged in mud is worked out as weight over 2 or half the vehicle weight.( Sand is weight over 7). (hard flat ground, weight over 25). Over 45 degrees of slope full weight.If all these formulas are used you will never ever hear your SWR sing.In my years as Recovery Mechanic both in Aust & Vietnam I have been involved in recovering some of the Army's largest Vehicles and Plant equipment and have never ever had a problem with a winch rope nor a safety issue, providing you stick to the rules. And don't forget to run your winch rope out and kero & oil it as the person that doesn't will hear the rope sing.
AnswerID: 69828

Reply By: CHRIS - Tuesday, Jul 27, 2004 at 09:30

Tuesday, Jul 27, 2004 at 09:30
Just wondering who was the head instructor at RTC when you were there. Two of my Army mates ended up in charge of Recovery at Bandiana. Their names were Rony Evans (Shorty) and Bert Gough. That was after Ken Corrigan-Houston died. Also who were you attached to in your time in.
AnswerID: 69831

Reply By: Member - Bradley- Tuesday, Jul 27, 2004 at 13:17

Tuesday, Jul 27, 2004 at 13:17
Thanks swerv and chris, top advice all round. Good rule of thumb formulas as well.
Too many guys using non rated gear getting around, it is not a time to be stingy on the gear !! Thanks again.. Brad
AnswerID: 69869

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