Author: Christie Lagowski

Christie Lagowski is a Communications Specialist for Columbus McKinnon Corporation.

4 Steps to Select the Right Wire Grip for Your Application

4 Steps to Select the Right Wire Grip for Your Application

Wire GripWhen working with wire in utility applications, safety is of utmost importance. That’s why it’s critical to choose the correct wire grip for the task at hand. Here are four steps to help you choose the best grip for your application.

Step 1: Determine what type of wire is being used.

What wire size are you pulling? If you’re pulling aluminum conductor steel reinforced (ACSR) cable you may want to use a different wire grip than if you’re pulling extra-high-strength cable (EHSC).

Step 2: What size wire (AWG, MCM or diameter) are you using?

When pulling wire, it is critical that the wire grips are properly sized to avoid slippage and safely maintain temporary tension until the wire or cable can be permanently terminated.

Step 3: What is the maximum required working load limit (WLL)?

It is important that you choose the right wire grip for your rated working load capacity. You will not need a wire grip rated for 20,000 lbs. if the maximum working load is 4,500 lbs. However, you must ensure the grip can handle the maximum load you’ll be pulling.

Step 4: Pick your wire grip.

Use the specifications you selected in steps one through three to select the grip you need. When choosing your grip, you may want to consider these factors as well:

  • Will this grip be used on hot lines?
  • Do you need a grip with spring-loaded or non-spring-loaded gates?
  • Is a notched handle preferred? A notched handle on spring-loaded models locks the grip in the open position for placement on or removal from wire, then releases instantly.

To see the full line of Little Mule Wire Grips, click here.

Visit us at the ICUEE Show, Booth 1817

Please join us at the ICUEE Show, Booth 1817, in Louisville, Kentucky from October 3-5. We will be featuring a variety of our utility products such as our Little Mule Wire Grips and Little Mule Lineman’s Hoist along with other CM and Coffing hoist products.

We hope to see you there!

Christie Lagowski

Christie Lagowski is a Communications Specialist for Columbus McKinnon Corporation.

Pfaff Rail Systems Help Maintain London Underground Tube Trains

Pfaff Rail Systems Help Maintain London Underground Tube Trains

rail systems
At Ealing Common Depot, a railway service workshop of the London Underground, the tube subway trains used on the District Line will now be maintained with the aid of a lifting system from Pfaff Verkehrstechnik GmbH located in Kissing, Germany. On account of its futuristic design, the maintenance staff has nicknamed the versatile and unique system the “Transformer.”

The dual-purpose system is comprised of a total of 28 stationary hybrid lifting jacks from Pfaff Verkehrstechnik with bogie lifting beams and body supports that raise and hold the trains, which measure up to 384 ft (117 m) long and 4.7 ft (1.44 m) high. This design gives engineers ample and safe access underneath the train when performing service.

Precision and Versatility

rail systemsThe versatility of the lifting system from Pfaff Verkehrstechnik lies with its ability to lift the tube trains as either a complete unit or as individual carriages to infinitely adjustable, ergonomic heights. The 28 jacks can lift up to 308 tons (280 metric tons), and the supports can carry a load of up to 218 tons (196 metric tons). This is a task that requires utmost precision. If a complete train is lifted, the lifting process of the Pfaff-silberblau jacks runs in precise synchronization with a deviation of less than ± 2 mm. The worm gear screw jacks achieve this precision through a series of frequency converters, which also permit different lifting speeds within the system.

Once the vehicle has been lifted, the next set of system components is ready to go into action. The jacks feature additional motor-driven supports for holding up the carriage bodies. This, in turn, makes it possible to lower the individual bogies back down onto the rails and roll them out from underneath the raised vehicle. Large, bright LED lights integrated into the lifting beams ensure illumination of the work area under the raised vehicle.

Once the Pfaff Verkehrstechnik system is lowered, the lifting beams mesh together with the main rail and sit flush with the floor. As soon as the lifting beams go up, they are followed by gap covers, thereby resealing the recesses, which would otherwise remain open, such that they can be stood on.

The lifting system and the work processes are controlled by an easy-to-use touch display, which also enables the maintenance staff to check the status of all major system components at all times.

New and Cost-Efficient Concept

Pfaff Verkehrstechnik’s hybrid lifting jack system is a new concept and will serve as a cost-effective alternative to established underfloor lifting and support systems. It is an excellent value for our customers due in part to the fact that extremely shallow pit depths require significantly less foundation work.

The motion technology for the lifting system from Pfaff Verkehrstechnik GmbH was developed by Pfaff’s sister company also based in Kissing – Columbus McKinnon Engineered Products (CMEP). Working together, they were able to provide a sophisticated system that will meet the ongoing needs of the London Underground.

Christie Lagowski

Christie Lagowski is a Communications Specialist for Columbus McKinnon Corporation.

Are Your Shackles Safe for Overhead Lifting?

Are Your Shackles Safe for Overhead Lifting?

lifting shackles
Chain Style Shackle
lifting shackles
Anchor Style Shackle

When determining the best shackle for your lifting application, there are many options to choose from. Shackles are typically available in two styles: chain style and anchor style.

Chain shackles are best-suited for straight line, single connection pulls because of their U-shape. Anchor or bow shackles have a more generous loop. This allows them to be side loaded or used for multiple connections.

Whether you use chain or anchor shackles, there are three types of pins that are used to secure a shackle, each with their own benefits and limitations.

lifting shackles
Screw pin shackle
lifting shackles
Bolt, nut and cotter shackle
lifting shackles
Round pin shackle



Screw Pin Lifting Shackles

Screw Pin Shackles allow for quick and easy removal of the screw pin, which makes this style ideal for applications where the shackle is removed frequently. While the threaded pin can resist axial forces, it should not be cyclically loaded. Additionally, it is unreliable and vulnerable to backing out in applications where the pin is subjected to a torque or twisting action. In some applications, it is recommended to “mouse” the screw pin to prevent it from unscrewing. This type of shackle is suitable for overhead lifting.

Bolt, Nut & Cotter Lifting Shackles

Of all shackle types, bolt, nut, and cotter shackles provide the most secure pin arrangement, resisting axial and torsional loading. This type of shackle should be used in semi-permanent applications where the pin is removed infrequently. Bolt, nut, and cotter shackles are suitable for overhead lifting.

Round Pin Lifting Shackles

Round Pin Shackles allow for easy removal by simply removing the cotter that holds the pin in place. These shackles perform well where the pin is subjected to a torque or twisting action. They are not recommended for use where the pin is subject to an axial load. Round pin shackles are not suitable for overhead lifting.

For more information on shackles, check out our safety webinar on the Proper Use of Shackles or our other blog articles on shackles.

Christie Lagowski

Christie Lagowski is a Communications Specialist for Columbus McKinnon Corporation.

How Crane Collision Avoidance Systems Help Prevent Accidents & Reduce Maintenance Costs

How Crane Collision Avoidance Systems Help Prevent Accidents & Reduce Maintenance Costs

I sat down with subject matter expert and Magnetek controls product manager, Casey Cummins, to discuss the benefits and features of crane collision avoidance systems.

Q: What is a crane collision avoidance system?

Casey: Collision avoidance systems are electronic devices that can be installed on your crane to help prevent accidents before they happen, protecting people, the facility, the end product and the crane itself. Collision avoidance systems are typically used in overhead material handling applications where multiple cranes are employed on a single runway, as well as where a single crane is in use. They are designed to prevent crane-to-crane and crane-to-end stop collisions, increasing operator safety and reducing system maintenance.

Q: Is the demand for collision avoidance systems growing?

Casey: Collision avoidance systems are increasingly being added to material handling systems as the demand for products that improve workplace safety grows. Collision avoidance systems intervene, when necessary, to prevent accidents, and are a reliable means of preventing human error, helping to make the workplace safer and reducing maintenance costs.

Q: Are there specific standards that require this type of system?

Casey: Collision avoidance systems are designed to prevent unintentional contact between cranes or other equipment. Although there are no specific requirements in today’s general duty crane standards to provide collision avoidance, CMAA states that all collision avoidance requirements shall be specified by the owner or purchaser of the crane. End-of-travel collision avoidance should be designed to prevent unintentional contact of the crane or trolley with mechanical end stops or other equipment. Collision avoidance should reduce speed and/or stop the travel motion prior to impact.

Q: What type of collision avoidance systems does Magnetek offer?

Casey: Magnetek offers three collision avoidance systems which can be applied to all types of overhead cranes or monorails with adjustable frequency drives, soft starters or contactor controls. Multiple configurations are available so customers can choose the exact functionality, size and style to fit their application needs. All Magnetek’s collision avoidance systems are rated IP65 or better for indoor or outdoor applicationsThe collision avoidance systems are “fail-safe,” which means that if the sensor loses power, motion of the crane would be stopped and restricted.

Q: What type of sensor technology do your collision avoidance systems use?

Casey: Magnetek’s ReFlx 45 product uses a modulated visible LED light signal, while the ReFlx 120 product uses an infrared light signal. These light signals are transmitted at a reflective target and a receiver senses the reflected signal from that target. The information is then processed and the appropriate relay will open, providing for slow down or stoppage of motion. Depending on the device selected, ReFlx has a detection range between 3 and 120 feet.

Crane Collision Avoidance Systems
ReFlx 45 with modulated visible LED light signal
Crane Collision Avoidance Systems
ReFlx 120 with infrared light signal

Magnetek’s LaserGuard2 collision avoidance product is the most technologically advanced system available, using self-monitoring optical lasers to check a crane’s position. Its multi-distance detection feature is flexible enough to manage crane-to-crane and wall-to-crane operations. The configurable set-point range of this laser-based system (from 8 inches to 150 feet) provides the ability to monitor distances between cranes, trolleys and monorail carriers, and prevent collision between this equipment. Laser-based systems offer the most precise positioning and are particularly useful in an automated environment.

Crane Collision Avoidance Systems
LaserGuard2 Collision Avoidance System

Q: What trends in the market do you see?

Casey: The industry is moving toward remote diagnostics and monitoring, which will allow crane operators to monitor the crane on their mobile phone or tablet from the ground or anywhere in the world. Magnetek offers remote diagnostics with its engineered solutions.

Christie Lagowski

Christie Lagowski is a Communications Specialist for Columbus McKinnon Corporation.

Yale Lifting Solutions Provides 200-Ton Test Rig for Hook Proof Load Testing

Yale Lifting Solutions Provides 200-Ton Test Rig for Hook Proof Load Testing

Test Rig
200-ton capacity horizontal test rig is used to proof load test humble hooks in the South African gold mining industry.

Yale Lifting Solutions was recently approached by a long-time client in the South African gold mining industry to provide a 200-ton capacity horizontal test rig used to proof load test humble hooks. Humble hooks are safety devices used to connect winder ropes to the main personnel cages and ore conveyances on hoists in vertical mine shafts.

How does the test rig work?

A humble hook is installed in the test rig and the operator sets the testing parameters. The test rig then automatically carries out the test and, upon completion, produces a test certificate containing relevant testing information that can be printed out or saved electronically. Typically, the rig tests each humble hook to 65 tons, but has a maximum testing capacity of 200 tons if needed. Each rig weighs more than 5,500 kg. (12,000 lbs.).

Also, because safety is a critical part of the way Columbus McKinnon does business, each test rig is fitted with a safety cage to prevent possible injury should something fail during the testing process. By use of strategically positioned limit switches working in conjunction with the control program, the test rig will only operate if the cage is closed. Once this test is complete, the humble hooks undergo an ultrasonic test before they are put into storage awaiting installation on the hoist.

In South Africa, it is a legal requirement that a short length of the front end of each winder rope on a mine hoist is cut off on a regular basis. Then, this wire rope sample is submitted to a testing laboratory for destructive testing and inspection, to monitor the residual strength of the rope. It is normal practice to replace the humble hook at the same time that the front end is cut. The humble hook in service is removed and the tested humble hook is installed in its place. To date, this is one of the largest manufacturing projects Yale Lifting Solutions has carried out in its newly formed manufacturing department.

Christie Lagowski

Christie Lagowski is a Communications Specialist for Columbus McKinnon Corporation.

Can Spring Balancers Save Lives? Yes They Can!

Can Spring Balancers Save Lives? Yes They Can!

spring balancers
The CMIP spring balancer was being used to provide support and relief for a horse with a badly injured hoof.

Normally, spring balancers, sold by our Columbus McKinnon’s Industrial Products (CMIP) division in Wuppertal, Germany, are used to relieve operators from the weight of hand tools. By using a tapered rope drum, the weight of the attached load is compensated so that loads up to 200 kg can be moved effortlessly along a vertical axis. Standard applications would include spot-welding guns, riveting machines or multiple-nut runners.

One unique use of CMIP’s spring balancers is a lifesaving application supporting horses.

In November, product management in Wuppertal, Germany, received a rather unusual call; a horse clinic needed immediate replacement of the existing spring balancer used at its facility.

The spring balancer was being used to provide support and relief for a horse with a badly injured hoof. The horse was wearing a sort of harness that was hung into one of our spring balancers with a capacity of 170 kgs. However, the horse had a panic attack and destroyed the supporting structure. Without it, the horse could not stand upright on its own, which would have sealed its fate as muscles and circulation have to be stimulated by regular activity.

After a quick call and a 1.5-hour drive, the clinic manager picked up the new balancer in Wuppertal and returned to the clinic. By that evening the horse was able to stand up again, ultimately saving its life. This proves that you really never know where a CMCO product is being used. 

Do you have a unique CM product application story to share?

Christie Lagowski

Christie Lagowski is a Communications Specialist for Columbus McKinnon Corporation.

Understanding Crane Operator Hand Signals for Mobile, Overhead, Gantry and Tower Cranes

Understanding Crane Operator Hand Signals for Mobile, Overhead, Gantry and Tower Cranes

Crane Operator Hand SignalsWhen working as a crane operator in a facility or at a jobsite, especially those with lots of traffic, it is crucial to understand and use crane operator hand signals. As required by OSHA 1926.1400 Cranes and Derricks, these individuals, or signal persons, must know all signals for mobile, tower and overhead cranes and must have a basic understanding of crane operation.

Charts identifying these hand signals must be posted on equipment or noticeably near hoisting operations. If modifications are made to any signals, they must be agreed upon by the crane operator, lift director and signal person and cannot conflict with the standard signals.

Identifying the Signal Person

The lift director at the jobsite has to appoint a qualified signal person before the lift. During crane operation, only one person can give signals, unless it’s for an emergency stop – then anyone on the jobsite can give the signal. Once the qualified signal person is identified, the signal person and the crane operator must identify each other prior to giving any signals.

Signaling the Crane Operator During the Lift

During crane operation, signals should be continuous. If at any time a signal is not understood, is not clear, is disrupted or is not audible, the crane operator must stop movement and not give a response.
When giving signals, all signs should be from the operator’s perspective. So, for example, to designate swing left, the signal person would extend their right arm so the operator would swing left.

In addition to hand signals, voice signals can be used. Voice signals must have three elements:

  • Direction or function
  • Speed or distance
  • Stop command of prior function

For example, a voice command may go something like: “Hoist 10 feet, 20 feet, 30 feet Stop! Swing right 90 degrees, slowly, slowly, Stop! Lower 10 feet, 20 feet, 30 feet Stop!

It’s important to note that when communicating with more than one crane, a procedure or system must be used to identify which crane that the signal is for. This helps avoid confusion on the part of the crane operator, allowing them to easily identify which crane should respond.

Moving the Crane

When the operator moves the crane into position, the following horn or audible sounds shall be used:

  • Stop: One short audible signal
  • Go Ahead: Two short audible signals
  • Back Up: Three short audible signals

These sounds are required to ensure that those not directly involved in controlling or working with the crane are aware of the crane’s movement in the job site.

To see a full list of all crane operator hand signals, including explanations and diagrams, click here.

Get hands-on crane operator training. See our full course offering.

Christie Lagowski

Christie Lagowski is a Communications Specialist for Columbus McKinnon Corporation.

Magnetek, Inc. Helps Repair Drawbridge Damaged by Hurricane Sandy

Magnetek, Inc. Helps Repair Drawbridge Damaged by Hurricane Sandy

Corrosion from Hurricane Sandy
The corrosion caused by Hurricane Sandy was evident on the brakes nearly five years after the brakes were submerged in saltwater.
Refurbished Shoe Brakes
Refurbished 300M Mill Duty AC Thruster Shoe Brakes waiting for shipment back to New York City.

Nearly five years after Hurricane Sandy, the second-costliest hurricane in United States history, cities along the eastern seaboard continue to discover – and repair – the damage inflicted on their infrastructure by the Category 3 storm. Recently, Magnetek, Inc. had the opportunity to help mend some of the hurricane’s long-term damage by rebuilding industrial brakes used in the operation of a four-lane drawbridge that spans a busy navigation channel in New York City.

Rainfall totals reached up to 10 inches across the region in 2012, causing a storm surge of nearly 14 feet. The rapid influx of seawater flooded the bridge’s mechanical room, submerging and contaminating critical systems required to control the bascule bridge structure. The introduction of
saltwater accelerated the destructive impact of corrosion on the bridges’ mechanical systems.

Magnetek was called in to repair and refurbish 16 storm-damaged 300M Mill Duty AC Thruster Shoe Brakes used to operate the bridge. While at Magnetek’s facility in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, the brakes were inspected and dismantled before being reassembled with new hardware, shoes and actuators. The rebuilding process returned the brakes to like-new condition, including a new “safety orange” paint job. The service team at Magnetek completed the job in record time in order to restore traffic flow to boats and commuters in the New York City region.

Christie Lagowski

Christie Lagowski is a Communications Specialist for Columbus McKinnon Corporation.

Answers to Your Top 7 Crane and Hoist Questions

Answers to Your Top 7 Crane and Hoist Questions


During the hundreds of classes Columbus McKinnon’s training team has conducted over the years, there are a variety of questions that arise regarding the use, maintenance and inspection of overhead cranes and hoists. So, I wanted to take this opportunity to outline seven of the most common concerns, myths and misconceptions we’ve received from crane and hoist operators and technicians during our classes.

1. Question: Do monorails need to be labeled with their rated load?

Answer: According to ASME B30.11, rated load markings are not required on monorails but are recommended. Before marking the monorail, a qualified person must determine the rated load on the monorail beam. Once the monorail is marked, the rating should be legible from the ground floor. ASME’s recommendation also applies to marking the rated loads of hoists on the monorail. For more information on hoist marking guidelines, see ASME B30.16.

2. Question: Can rated loads for hoists and trolleys be different from the crane’s rated load?

Answer: The short answer to your question is “yes.” However, ASME B30.16 stipulates that when a system is comprised of components with different rated capacities, the rated load of the “system” shall be based on the lowest rated individual component.
System is defined as the combination of Monorail, Hoist and Trolley in the case of a Monorail and Crane; Hoist and Trolley in the case of an Underhung Crane.

ASME B30.16-1.3.2 states that the supporting structure, including trolleys, monorail, or crane, shall be designed to withstand the loads and forces imposed by the hoist for the rated load.

3. Question: Are yearly load tests required on a hoist and crane?

Answer: There is no specific time period during which load tests must be performed once the initial installation is inspected and load tested. Some states require operators to load test hoists and cranes every four years, but, in most cases, if the hoist is not altered, repaired or modified, it can remain in service indefinitely without a load test being required.

4. Question: Are monthly records of inspection required for hoists, wire rope, chain and hooks?

Answer: This depends on the type of crane. OSHA regulation 1910.179 applies to top-running overhead and gantry cranes with top-running trolley hoists. For these types of cranes, monthly inspections of the hoist’s chain, wire rope and hooks are required with a recorded certification. This certification record must include the signature of the person who performed the inspection and the identifier of the chain, wire and hook that was inspected. If a hoist and trolley are underhung, frequent inspections are required, but written documentation is not.

5. Question: Do you have to be certified to inspect and repair hoists and cranes?

Answer: According to ASME standards, you must be a “qualified person” to inspect and repair cranes and hoists. A “qualified person” is a person who, by possession of a recognized degree or certificate of professional standing, or who, by extensive knowledge, training and experience, has successfully demonstrated the ability to solve or resolve problems relating to the subject matter and work. These individuals do not have to be professional engineers.

6. Question: Do you need to disassemble hoists for yearly inspections?

Answer: Hoist disassembly is not always required for yearly inspections. What is found during the inspection typically determines how far you need to break down the hoist. Be sure to reference the manufacturer’s OEM manual when disassembling any hoist.

7. Question: Do chain slings require latches on hooks?

Answer: According to OSHA 1910.184 and ASME B30.9, slings do not require latches on the hooks, unlike hoist and crane hooks where latches are required unless they constitute a hazard.

To learn more, check out our Safety Webinar covering these same questions. I hope you find this information useful when using, repairing or inspecting overhead hoists and cranes.

Christie Lagowski

Christie Lagowski is a Communications Specialist for Columbus McKinnon Corporation.

Nine Important Rules to Follow When Using Shackles

Nine Important Rules to Follow When Using Shackles


Shackles are used every day in a variety of rigging and load securement applications. Before you use a shackle, there are nine important rules to keep in mind.

Rule 1:

When making a sling, attach multiple sling legs to the bow, not the pin. Attaching legs to the pin can damage and weaken the sling.

Rule 2:

When point loading shackle to shackle, connect bow to bow or bow to pin. Never connect pin to pin.

Rule 3:

Do not side load “D” shaped shackles such as chain shackles or long reach shackles. These shackles are designed and rated for in-line applied tension. Therefore, the center line of the load should coincide with the center line of the shackle. Anchor body style shackles (screw pin style, as pictured above, or bolt nut cotter anchor body style) can be side loaded. Always refer to reductions in rating charts when performing this type of rigging.

Rule 4:

When securing a load, the bow of the shackle should be put into the running side of a choke.

Rule 5:

When using a shackle with wire rope, the shackle must be equal to or larger than the wire rope diameter.

Rule 6:

If using a shackle with synthetic slings, ensure the shackle is big enough to avoid pinching or binding the sling.

Rule 7:

Shackles should not be subjected to high or low temperatures that could affect thermal treatment and the strength of the shackle.  -4 degrees F to 400 degrees F is the operating range for full working load limit.

Rule 8:

Always ensure shackle pins are properly engaged. Screw pin shackles need to have threads fully engaged on the shackle ear. (The pin should be flush with the outside of the shackle body or slightly past). The pin head should make contact with the shackle body. Bolt nut and cotter shackles need to have the bolt and nut properly secured with the cotter pin attached.

Rule 9:

Use bolt nut cotter anchor style shackles, if shackles will remain in place as a semi-permanent application or if they will be suspending a load. Screw pin shackles are used when the shackles are removed after the lift is complete. If a screw pin shackle is being used to suspend the load for any length of time, it is advisable that you mouse or tie off the pin to the body of the shackle with wire.
Want to learn more about safe shackle use? Here are some additional resources:

Shackle Markings, Materials and Appropriate Standards
New CM Shackle Markings and Pins Lead to Improved Operator Safety
Customer Concerns over Recommended Shackle Pin Length
Safety Webinar: Proper Use of Shackles 

Last updated on 12/21/15

Christie Lagowski

Christie Lagowski is a Communications Specialist for Columbus McKinnon Corporation.