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Synthetic fibre slings

Safety Alert
1 January 2013

Synthetic fibre slings or 'soft' slings are regularly used in workplaces for the lifting and moving of loads by cranes.

Damaged slings can compromise the safety of lifting activity. We have received reports of damaged slings being used.

While synthetic fibre slings may have certain advantages over wire rope and chain slings, they are susceptible to damage and can be cut if exposed to unprotected sharp edges or corners.

Possible causes

Slings can be damaged or fail due to:

  • undersized sling capacity
  • any visible defect or damage which can reduce the sling’s working load limit (WLL) and possibly become an initiating point for failure
  • use of excessive choke
  • incorrect slinging techniques, including excessive angles between legs of slings
  • inappropriate selection of slings in relation to the load size or shape
  • use of synthetic slings without a protective sleeve
  • poor storage and harsh environmental conditions.

Action required

  • An assessment must be made as to the appropriate type of sling to be used. A range of sling types and sizes should always be available to ensure the correct sling can be selected.
  • Where a load lift is not pre-planned, the person deciding on correct sling selection must hold a Licence to Perform High Risk Work for dogging or rigging.
  • Slings must be checked by a competent person before each use for any visible signs of damage that could affect their safe use. The person checking the sling must have attained appropriate instruction and training prior to conducting this work.
  • Regular inspections for sling condition and continued safe use must be conducted by a competent person, at intervals preferably not exceeding three months.
  • Where synthetic slings are exposed to harsh operating or storage conditions, more frequent inspection may be required.
  • Slings must be slung or reeved as per manufacturer’s instructions or labels.
  • The WLL of the lifting configuration (hitches) must not be exceeded at any time. The WLL depends on the included angle between the legs of the slings or, in the case of choked hitch or basket hitch, the angle of the hitch. Avoid an included angle exceeding 120 degrees.
  • Where loads to be lifted have sharp edges or attached components such as cleats, chain or wire rope slings should be used. Synthetic slings must not be used unless protective sleeves are fitted.
  • Protection can generally be achieved by fitting engineered lifting points during manufacture or having suitable packing materials between the sling and load when using chain or wire rope slings.
  • Protecting the surface finish or paintwork of the load should not be primary factors in sling selection.

Additional information

Australian Standard AS 4497.2: Roundslings – Synthetic fibre – Part 2: Care and use