Follow these safety procedures for your hydraulic winch

Industries you might expect to be the most experienced and careful about heavy-lifting – fishing and care homes – have some of the worst accident rates. As well as the obvious danger of dropping a load, avoidable accidents frequently arise from mismatched or overloaded equipment, and from failing to maintain it.

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Lifting and hauling equipment that is properly designed and used is perfectly safe. Many guidelines are laid down in international standards like ASME B30.16, and by HSE regulations (see, but four basic precautions will prevent casualties, insurance claims, lost production and costly damage.

Choose equipment wisely

As well as the popular hydraulic winch there are also pneumatic, electric and manual alternatives, each with multiple variations. Factors you must consider include; whether lifting or pulling, the lift height, cable length and diameter, power requirements, required line speeds, gearing, braking, mooring arrangements, and whether to use multi-reeving to increase work ratios and spread the load.

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You can see a wide range of winches and accessories here, and suppliers are always your best source of advice.

Mathematical calculations are needed to make sensible decisions, and while these equations are not difficult it is important that all your fitters and operators can relate them to the job in hand.

Safety regulations provide a useful guide to parameters you might otherwise forget. For example, the uppermost coil of cable on the drum should be no higher than 3-5 cable diameters below the top edge of the drum flange to avoid any possibility of it slipping off.


Maintenance should always be proactive and never reactive. By the time one component breaks, others have usually been damaged as well. Resolving emerging issues in good time is both safer and cheaper in the long run. Make frequent inspections and servicing a strict routine.

Invest in training

It’s surprising how many operators remember to oil mechanical parts but forget to lubricate the cable. Lubrication is very important, and using the wrong type does more harm than good. Only good quality training can prevent expensive mistakes.

Riggers, spotters and all personnel in the vicinity of any winch should have basic operational training and PPE instruction.


Expect the unexpected. Power lines, wind, animals and trees are just a few of the things that can suddenly intervene in a lifting operation with disastrous, and completely avoidable, consequences.


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