We’ve seen an increase in the number of come-a-longs, sometimes referred to as a lever hoist, that have been going out on rent lately, so this seemed like an appropriate time to detail some of the common misuses of this versatile piece of equipment as well as an easy solution to prolong their lifespan.
One of the most apparent benefits of using a come-a-long is the lever action of the block itself that allows for easier operation of the hoist over using a pull chain. One situation in which a come-a-long would be the obvious choice is for performing horizontal or angular pulls where a hand chain hoist would tend to bind up. This, however, leads to one of the most common issues with a lever hoist.
When used in a straight pull that stays in the plane, whether vertical or horizontal, a come-a-long’s rated capacity is pretty straight-forward; what’s listed is what it can handle. However, once the lift shifts from vertical to diagonal, additional forces will shift the amount of load weight taken on by the hoist and, not taking those forces into account, can be the difference between a successful lift and an equipment failure. Say, for example, your lift is being done at a 45-degree angle, looking to hoist up 5 tons. It would stand to reason that a 6-ton lever hoist would be up to the task, right? Wrong. If you were to attempt this pick without adjusting for sling tension on both your hoist and rigging hardware, you can guarantee equipment overload will take place, risking the hoist itself, your load or worse yet, your crew.
Another issue commonly seen on lever hoists arises when, while under full load, a cheater bar is added to the lever to make raising the load easier. While it’s true that a longer handle will reduce the amount of perceived force required to raise or lower a load, it also holds true that the handle supplied with the unit is only rated to be operated manually at the length included on the hoist and not modified in any way. Furthermore, some manufacturers do not design the hoist with an overload protection, so this action may very well overload the hoist. When a cheater bar is added to the lever – typically done when a unit is at full capacity or in an ill-advised attempt to surpass the rated load of the hoist – the operator is attempting to reduce the force required to raise the load, which then overloads the handle. In these cases, you’ll see the handle bend or, in more severe cases, snap off entirely. While cheater bars will ease the physical strain of operating the hoist, it should never be used as a method of operating a come-a-long for many reasons, primary of which is the risk of job site accidents or death.
Most in this industry understand the intended purpose of a come-a-long is for lifting or pulling a load straight in line from one bearing point to another, but that doesn’t mean these hoists aren’t occasionally used improperly with the chain being used in a choker hitch. There are no circumstances where the lifting chain should be used in this manner. Using the lifting chain in a choker risks bending and, therefore, compromising the integrity of the hook itself. Once bent, the lever hoist is no longer suitable for use in the field. There is no leeway for a bent or twisted hook. Misuse in this fashion is a quick way to remove a unit from service until it has been repaired, inspected, tested and re-certified.
It should also be noted that while lever hoists are great tools to use on many different types of jobs, these hoists are not rated for use as a binding device. Use of a lever hoist to bind down loads puts strain on the hook and chain and there is no way to know the actual rating of the hoist at that point.
Noting all the above-mentioned misuses, an easy way to preserve and extend the life of a come-a-long is to include rigging hardware in your lift plan such as shackles or beam clamps at suspension points. The proper use of these items goes a long way toward preserving the hook and, moreover, the integrity of the hoist itself. Using a shackle inside a lug or using a beam clamp instead of placing the hook directly into the lifting point allows the load to be taken on by the shackle and the hook of the lever hoist to grab onto a more suitable surface. Small steps like this with relatively inexpensive hardware, whether owned or rented from LGH, help to reduce maintenance and added costs from unnecessary repair.