Modern transportation has made life a lot easier but not necessarily less hazardous. One of the hazards that remains a serious concern are unsecured transport loads, which pose a threat to workers and others in the vicinity during transportation to or across a worksite.

In this article, we’ll go over six tips that will help you ensure that your cargo is secure and safe from falling or tipping.

Where Is the Risk?

There is always a risk of load loss when heavy machinery is transporting something. Cement blocks or a bulldozer on a tractor trailer? Steel beams being moved by a crane? A forklift carrying a pallet full of chemical drums? All of these could fall if they're not secured properly (for related reading, see Forklift Safety 101).

Securing loads is a topic that might be overlooked during toolbox talks and tailgate meetings. But just because it seems like common sense to you doesn't mean it's being done on the job site. During adverse weather conditions, workers responsible for securing the load may rush through the job, cut corners, or not do it at all so they can get out of the rain, sleet, or snow. Some workers may also reason that it's a waste of time to secure a load that won't be moved far (in reality, it doesn't matter whether the load is being moved across the warehouse floor or across the state, it must be properly secured).

Of course, not all industries move loads frequently – or at all. Industries with a greater risk for unsecured or lost loads include:

  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Automotive production
  • Storage and warehouses
  • Heavy equipment repair
  • Transportation

6 Tips to Ensure Your Load Is Secure

Understanding that a load must be secured is one thing; knowing how to properly secure it is another. These guidelines will help you ensure that your cargo is kept stable and everyone is kept safe.

1. Pay Attention to Machinery Load Limits

One of the easiest ways to put the equipment operator and surrounding workers in danger is to overload a lift truck, crane, or other type of heavy machinery. Some operators think they can rely on experience or instinct to know when a load is too heavy. While this method may work sometimes, it’s extremely unreliable and dangerous (learn about Forklift Safety with Attachments).

Each piece of heavy equipment has a maximum load limit. That limit is usually written on the data plate. If you’re not sure what the weight of the load or the capacity of your equipment is, check with the manufacturer or supplier and employ a load measuring system. Do not guess.

2. Verify that Slings, Lashings, and Other Restraint Gear Are in Good Condition

The safety and security of the load being transported depends on the quality and condition of the tools and gear used to secure it. If you’re using slings or straps that are excessively worn, there’s a chance they could break or give way while the vehicle is on the move.

Before you secure any load, inspect the gear you’ll be using for wear patterns or signs of damage. If you find any, remove those pieces from service immediately.

3. Check the Load Occasionally During Transport

If you’re transporting a load across a longer distance, safety experts recommend pulling over occasionally to ensure everything is as it should be. Chains and straps can shift and stretch with movement, and regular stops give you a chance to inspect them and re-tighten as necessary.

4. Confirm that Tie-Down Points, Binders, Hooks, and Clevis Pins Meet Capacity Regulations

This tip is about making sure all the different parts required to secure your load work well together. It’s great to have a chain that can handle 5,500 pounds, but that extra capacity isn’t helpful if the binder you’re using is only suitable up to 3,000 pounds. Before you begin securing your load, you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t exceed the lowest weight that your tools can accommodate – not the highest.

5. Perform Regular Maintenance on Hoists

Falling materials from crane hoists can be exceptionally dangerous. Maintaining hoists on a regular basis can help prevent falling loads, keeps the hoist in good working condition, and ensures that you know how much weight it can safely handle.

6. Don’t Forget to Consider Center of Gravity and Load Balance

In addition to being secured, the load must be properly balanced. Off-balance loads can tip or slip out – or cause the equipment carrying them to tip. An imbalanced or off-center load can also affect braking and steering on tractor trailers and other heavy machinery.

Conclusion

Whether it’s via tractor trailer, crane, or another piece of heavy equipment, transporting goods can be risky. Properly securing the load – whatever it may be – is the best way to prevent an accidental load loss and mitigate the potential for serious injury to workers or pedestrians in the vicinity.