Category: Oil & Gas Industry

Using Cranes and Hoists in Hazardous Areas Part 3: Space Constraint Challenges and Solutions

Using Cranes and Hoists in Hazardous Areas Part 3: Space Constraint Challenges and Solutions

space constraint challenges space constraint challenges

This article is Part 3 of a 3-part blog series that will provide an overview of safe practices for the use of material handling equipment in hazardous environments. Today, we’ll discuss space constraint challenges and solutions.

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, I discussed issues with compliance to NEC and IEC standards, the need for mechanical spark resistance and the importance of corrosion protection for safety in hazardous environments. In this blog, the final installment of the series, we’ll outline the challenges of working in areas with space constraints and how these challenges are magnified in hazardous areas. We will also identify solutions to these potential problems.

Space Constraint Challenges

Classified hazardous areas frequently exist within confined spaces, especially in the mining and oil & gas industries. In mining, tunnels often have low overhead clearance in areas where coal or other flammable dust may be present. In the oil and gas industry, designers of offshore facilities typically look to minimize the overall size of the structure, which can lead to low headroom between deck levels and tight clearances for monorails and crane runways.
In all of these situations, there is a need for overhead lifting equipment that is compact in design, including low headroom and short side clearances, as well as a short “end approach” to maximize the deck coverage area served by the monorail hoist or crane.

This need for compact hoists, trolleys and cranes is often complicated by the possibility that flammable gases or dust may be present in the areas where the equipment is used. Therefore, explosion-proof and spark-resistant features may be needed, each posing their own challenges given the space constraints. For example, explosion-proof electric motors and control enclosures are typically larger and heavier than those for non-hazardous areas. Spark-resistant bronze load blocks and hooks tend to be larger than carbon or alloy steel hooks and blocks with the same safe working load. Also, the use of spark-resistant stainless steel load chain or wire rope often requires the equipment capacity to be de-rated due to lower tensile strength of stainless versus alloy steel. This de-rating can sometimes result in larger, heavier and more costly hoists and cranes.


As you can see, there are many factors to consider when specifying or purchasing lifting equipment for hazardous locations with space limitations. When dimensional constraints within facilities and working environments compete with the need to comply with hazardous area requirements, the safety of personnel, equipment and facilities themselves must always take precedence in our decision making.

Fortunately, there are a variety of equipment options available, featuring spark- and corrosion-resistant materials and explosion-proof components, that can be used in confined areas. Low-headroom hoists are offered in both wire rope and chain varieties, including manual, electric and pneumatic models.

Wire rope hoists can typically provide higher capacities and faster lifting speeds, while chain hoists can offer smaller overall dimensional envelopes to optimize end approach and clearance. Solid bronze and stainless steel components can provide lasting protection against sparking and corrosion, but, in some applications, copper or nickel plating can be substituted to provide lower headroom dimensions and reduce the need for de-rating of safe working loads.

Columbus McKinnon provides solutions for all of these challenges. The Chester brand is best known for its ultra-low headroom models. The industry-leading, low-profile designs and rugged durability of Chester hoists make them ideal for harsh marine environments and confined spaces between decks on ships and offshore oil facilities. Yale Cable King wire rope hoists and Yale crane component products also provide a broad range of capacities and configurations and can be engineered with explosion-proof and spark-resistant features.

Regardless of your industry or where you do business, Columbus McKinnon has the hoists, cranes and application expertise to keep your people, materials and equipment safe in classified hazardous and corrosive environments.

space constraint challengesspace constraint challenges

Additional Resources:
Using Cranes and Hoists in Hazardous Areas Part 1: The Need for Spark Resistance
Using Cranes and Hoists in Hazardous Areas Part 2: The Need for Corrosion Resistance

Using Cranes and Hoists in Hazardous Areas Part 2: The Need for Corrosion Resistance

Using Cranes and Hoists in Hazardous Areas Part 2: The Need for Corrosion Resistance

Refinery 1Refinery 2

This article is Part 2 of a 3-part blog series that will provide an overview of safe practices for the use of material handling equipment in hazardous environments. Today, we’ll discuss the need for corrosion resistance.

As we established in Part 1 of this series, lifting equipment used in classified hazardous locations must be compliant with NEC, IEC or other applicable standards. Care should also be taken to ensure mechanical spark resistance for critical components, such as load blocks, hooks, trolley wheels, load brake and lifting mediums like chain and wire rope, in these locations. In addition to spark resistance, corrosion protection for lifting equipment is equally important in these environments to ensure the safety of personnel, equipment and the facility itself.

First, it should be noted that many classified hazardous areas exist outdoors, exposing lifting equipment to direct and often harsh weather. This includes applications such as offshore oil platforms, natural gas processing plants and refineries – to name a few. Specifically in offshore facilities, equipment may be exposed to splash zones, salt spray and the condensation of salt-laden air. In addition to harsh and corrosive weather conditions, sulfur, mineral acids and other corrosive agents are often present in the crude oil and natural gas that is being produced, processed and transported in these facilities, working to further corrode lifting equipment used in these environments.

Corroded pipe Refinery 3The total cost of corrosion can be tremendous, adding up to billions of dollars each year in the oil and gas industry alone. For these companies, the cost of repairing and replacing corroded lifting equipment paired with unscheduled maintenance, downtime and lost production can have a major impact on their profitability. In addition, corroded load blocks, hooks, chains and cables can result in catastrophic equipment failure. Not only can this cause costly damage to equipment and the facility, but most importantly, it can injure or even kill operators and other individuals in the facility.

Chain rusty iron rope

So how do you protect lifting equipment from corrosion?

The use of corrosion-resistant materials for load blocks, hooks, chains, cables and other components is critical. And, since surface corrosion can increase the friction between mating components, corrosion prevention can also be important in maintaining mechanical spark resistance when using these products in classified hazardous environments.
Columbus McKinnon offers a variety of solutions for these challenges, in the form of a wide range lifting products with spark and corrosion resistant materials and coatings. We also offer application engineering assistance to help you determine the right solution for your application. Choose from specially engineered products with:

  • Solid bronze hooks, bottom blocks and trolley wheels
  • Lightweight aluminum housings
  • Stainless steel load and hand chain
  • Multi-coat epoxy finishes
  • Zinc-aluminum corrosion-resistant finish

In addition to corrosion-resistant materials and finishes, we also suggest proper hoist lubrication to prevent sparking. These measures, combined with a robust inspection and preventative maintenance program that includes pre-lift inspections, play a critical role in ensuring the dependability and safe operation of lifting equipment in these harsh environments.

Regardless of your industry or where you do business. Columbus McKinnon has the hoists and cranes to keep your people, materials and equipment safe in hazardous areas. Learn more about our corrosion-resistant products:

Additional Resources:
Using Cranes and Hoists in Hazardous Areas Part 1: The Need for Spark Resistance

Using Cranes and Hoists in Hazardous Areas Part 1: The Need For Spark Resistance

Using Cranes and Hoists in Hazardous Areas Part 1: The Need For Spark Resistance

This article is Part 1 of a 3-part blog series that will provide an overview of safe practices for the use of material handling equipment in hazardous environments. Today, we’ll discuss the need for spark resistance.

Oil Rig
Photo Courtesy of

Across a variety of industries, ranging from upstream oil and gas and refining to agriculture and wood working, potentially flammable atmospheres can exist. These hazardous areas can present a unique set of challenges for material handling equipment and can pose a serious threat to materials, equipment and, most importantly, personnel.

In the U.S., NFPA 70, part of the National Electric Code (NEC), addresses the design and installation of electrical conductors and equipment in hazardous areas, but does not specifically provide guidelines for mechanical equipment used in these same hazardous locations.

The Importance of Spark Resistance
The NEC breaks down hazardous areas into different types of explosive atmospheres, two of which are those involving flammable gases and those involving dusts. These hazard Classes are further clarified by Group and Division as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1
Figure 1

It is generally understood that friction between certain materials can cause sparks sufficient enough to ignite flammable gas or dust. A cigarette lighter or an antique flintlock musket are familiar examples of this. Obviously the type and concentration/dilution of gases in an area is one element that affects potential ignition from a mechanically generated source, but other key factors could include:

  • The type materials making contact
  • The speed/pressure with which the materials come into contact
  • Corrosion on one or more of the contacting surfaces
  • Lubrication

As with our cigarette lighter and flintlock examples, it is understood that contact between steel surfaces can create sparks. Steel is commonly used in most hoists and cranes for load-bearing components such as hooks, lower blocks, load chain and trolley wheels, and therefore may not be suitable for some hazardous environments.

To address this potential risk, Columbus McKinnon uses materials such as copper, bronze, and austenitic stainless steel, which are generally considered non-sparking, for coatings or as material substitutions for enhanced spark resistance. Not only are these materials spark resistant, but they can also protect against corrosion. Since surface corrosion can increase friction between mating components, corrosion prevention is also important when using material handling products in hazardous environments.

We specially engineer a variety of products with spark-resistant components and finishes, including:

  • Solid bronze hooks, bottom blocks and trolley wheels
  • Bronze plated components
  • Stainless steel load and hand chain
  • Multi-coat epoxy finishes
  • Zinc-aluminum corrosion-resistant finish

Regardless of your industry or where you do business. CMCO has the hoists and cranes to keep your people, materials and equipment safe in hazardous areas. Learn more about our spark-resistant products:

We Are Where You Are: Columbus McKinnon Opens New Modern Warehouse in Houston

We Are Where You Are: Columbus McKinnon Opens New Modern Warehouse in Houston

As some competitors are closing and consolidating their distribution centers, Columbus McKinnon continues to invest in its network of warehouse facilities in North America. We’ve worked hard to strategically position our facilities across the country to align ourselves with the critical needs of our customers – one of which is fast delivery of our products. Randy Lewis

With that said, we are excited to announce a new expanded warehouse facility in Houston, Texas. To get the news firsthand, I reached out to Randy Lewis, our General Manager of our Warehouse Operations, to learn more about our new warehouse. Here is what he had to say:

“We already had a 30,000 square foot warehouse in Houston. Why did we decide to move?”
Several reasons factored into this move, but one of the main reasons is that this new facility gives us an additional 10,000 square feet of warehouse space. The building is greener with new high-efficiency lighting to save on energy costs.

“What are the benefits of the new facility to our customers?”
In the new building we have higher ceilings. With more vertical space, we increased our storage capacity to better support our customers in the central United States. More stock in Houston will decrease transportation lead times for central U.S. customers. It also provides additional storage for In-Stock Guarantee products and hoist-related goods.

The additional space in the new facility also makes us better equipped to handle the loading and unloading of trucks, resulting in a quicker turn around for will-call customers.

The location of the new facility is a big benefit. Within close proximity to refineries in the area, we will be better equipped to support the oil and gas markets.

“So, has the new facility opened its doors yet?”
Yes! We began operations on March 16.

“Where are CMCO’s warehouses located?”
We are where our customers are. We are in 4 of the 5 North American time zones and are strategically located near global transportation hubs and the major North American trade corridors.

Our warehouse locations include:

United States
Atlanta, Georgia
Chicago, Illinois
Houston, Texas
Santa Fe Springs, California
Tonawanda, New York

Edmonton, Alberta
Cobourg, Ontario

Providing best-in-class service and delivery to our customers is a critical part of the way we do business. This new facility along with our existing warehouses in the U.S. and Canada puts us closer to our Channel Partners and end-users, no matter where they are located. This allows us to provide better service while reduce shipping times and costs for our customers.

Is Your Material Handling Equipment Tough Enough for Arctic Environments?

Is Your Material Handling Equipment Tough Enough for Arctic Environments?

Arctic Pipeline Arctic application

With increasing demand for the exploration and production of natural resources in North Dakota, Alaska and other northern regions in the U.S. and Canada, there is a growing need for cranes and lifting equipment that can withstand exposure to ultra-cold temperatures. When selecting and specifying these products, careful consideration must be given to site conditions that could affect the safety and use of these heavy-duty lifting devices.

Choosing the correct hoists, cranes or rigging products for an application is always critically important due to the inherent risks involved in overhead lifting. If specified incorrectly, the potential for costly equipment damage, personal injury and lost productivity resulting from failure of overhead lifting equipment can be very significant. While reputable manufacturers of lifting equipment utilize sound engineering, quality materials and have safety factors designed into their equipment, it is important to note that most manufacturers’ standard capacity ratings and duty classes do not take into account the impact that extreme cold temperatures can have on structural steel and other construction materials. This fact is borne out in a variety of industry standards.

Some of these include:

  • ASME (The American Society of Mechanical Engineers) ASME HST-2-1999 Performance Standard for Hand Chain Manually Operated Chain Hoists states “The hoists and trolleys covered by this Standard are intended for industrial use in ambient temperatures from 0° F (-18° C) to 130° F (54° C).”
  • ASME HST-1-1999 Performance Standard for Electric Chain Hoists and ASME HST-4 Performance Standard for Overhead Electric Wire Rope Hoists both state “hoist equipment is designed to operate in ambient temperatures between 0° F (-18° C) and 104° F (40° C).”
  • DNV Standard for Certification No. 2.22 Lifting Appliances, June 2013 states that for shipboard/industrial cranes (including derrick crane, gantry crane, overhead traveling crane, knuckle boom cranes) if not otherwise specified a design temperature of -10° C (14° F) shall be applied. This is a reference temperature to be used as a criterion for the selection of steel grades.
  • ASME B30.20 Below the Hook Lifting Devices states that additional considerations need to be taken if the working temperature is outside the range of -4 degrees C to 66 degrees C. It suggests that engineers either de-rate the capacity or use steel that is better suited for low temperature service.

The Impact of Cold on Steel and other Construction Materials
These and other standards reinforce the point that “standard” lifting equipment may not be suitable for use in extreme cold. The temperature limitations set forth in these documents may vary slightly from one standard to another, but they all recognize that temperature can negatively affect the safe working capacity of lifting equipment.

Cold temperatures can adversely affect the tensile toughness of many commonly used materials. Tensile toughness is a measure of a material’s brittleness or ductility. Ductile materials can absorb a significant amount of impact energy before fracturing, resulting in deformations (bending) that can alert the operator to an overload situation before a failure occurs. Brittle materials, on the other hand, can shatter on impact. Many materials experience a shift from ductile to brittle if the temperature drops below a certain point. The temperature at which this shift occurs is commonly known as the “ductile-to-brittle-transition” temperature (DBTT). Any brittle failure will be catastrophic and the failure will not necessarily be predictable. It can occur from a random impact, dynamic loading or can propagate out of a stress riser such as a crack or nick.

The Effect of Cold on Other Components
In addition to the effects of cold on steel and other construction materials, we must also consider the suitability of items such as motors, control components, hydraulic fluids, gear box lubricants and welding in these environments. It is important to consider the minimum ambient temperatures that may be present in the location that the hoist, crane or rigging will be used. Cold can cause some oil to become so thick that it cannot be pumped or be relied on as a “splash lubricant”. Grease can become stiff and solidify, causing grease-lubricated rotating parts to seize up.

Ensure Safety when Selecting Lifting Equipment for these Environments
Reading and understanding applicable safety standards and consulting with experienced and reputable equipment manufacturers are two important steps in ensuring operator and facility safety when selecting hoists, cranes and rigging equipment for cold temperature applications.

  • Columbus McKinnon offers cranes, hoists, trolleys and rigging hardware designed and manufactured to order in North America, rather than being mass produced and warehoused. Many of these products lend themselves to modification and substitution of materials, allowing the equipment to be tailored to a specific application. Our Application Engineers are available to work with customers to determine the correct equipment, special componentry and any required design modifications based on a customer’s operating environment, capacity, and service requirements.
  •  Chester Hoist and Yale Cable King hoists, trolleys and crane components can be offered with special cold temperature steels, heated control enclosures, gear box heaters, artic-duty motors, low-temperature lubricants, special material certification (Charpy’s V- Notch ), material traceability reports, NDT of load bearing welds, and certificate of suitability for arctic duty (includes minimum temperature rating).
  •  CM DNV Shackles and DNV Master Sub- Assemblies are certified to meet DNV standards for Offshore Container Specifications and comply with DNV Lifting Appliances Requirements. These products also exceed Charpy’s V-notch impact strength of 42 Joules at -20°C (31 ft-lb at -4°F) as per DNV 2.7-1.

Working with Columbus McKinnon Application Engineers to address your low-temperature equipment needs, along with adhering to proper maintenance procedures and operator training, should allow for safe and uninterrupted operation of hoists and cranes even during periods of extreme cold. Be sure to take into consideration the specific stresses that cold-temperatures put on heavy-duty lifting products to keep your workers safe and prevent dangerous accidents on your worksites.

How to Choose Hoists & Cranes for Offshore Applications

How to Choose Hoists & Cranes for Offshore Applications

Proper selection and specification of hoists, cranes and rigging hardware is always essential to safe overhead lifting, but in no environment is this more critical than on offshore oil and gas facilities.

In offshore oil and gas applications, there is a higher potential for flammable gases to be present. Therefore it is extremely important that proper safety precautions are taken to protect workers aboard these vessels and prevent equipment damage. It is important that the individuals responsible for specifying and purchasing material handling equipment for use in these environments can properly identify any hazardous locations or areas per the U.S. National Electric Code (NFPA 70), IEC Standard 60079, and other applicable local, national and international standards to ensure compliance with these regulations and safe operation. Additionally, the use of mechanically spark-resistant materials should be strongly considered, although these materials are not specifically addressed within many of the referenced standards.

In the absence of a definitive industry standard specifying what constitutes spark-resistant construction for hoists and cranes, it is frequently left to the knowledge and discretion of the seller to determine what materials will be used unless the purchaser designates specific requirements. If not clearly defined in the bid specification, the product and spark-resistant features provided often depend on the sourcing channels utilized by the end user.

Columbus McKinnon manufactures many products specifically designed for applications that require spark-resistant features. Our diverse, made in-America portfolio of hoists and trolleys are built to suit, rather than a mass produced “one size fits all” approach. Many of the products lend themselves to modification and substitution of materials that allows us to configure our hoists and trolleys to the specific application.

  • Chester Hoist products utilize solid spark-resistant materials such as bronze hooks, trolley wheels and brake ratchets as well as stainless steel load chain, hand chain and hook latches. In some cases it is necessary to use nickel-diffused chains or copper-plated hooks due to headroom constraints or to reduce costs for equipment that will be used infrequently or in temporary applications. In these cases, Chester also can provide plated components to reduce costs. For equipment that is relied on heavily and is required to maintain spark and corrosion-resistant qualities for the life of the equipment, we actively promote the lasting protection of solid spark and corrosion-resistant materials rather than plated components. 
Explosion Proof Cable King Hoist
Explosion Proof Global King Hoist



  • Yale Cable King wire rope hoists can be supplied in a wide range of capacities, lifting speeds and configurations with both spark and explosion resistance. The Cable King is  available in a spark-resistant pneumatic model and an explosion-proof electric model, for Class 1, Division 1 or 2, Group C & D; and Class 2, Division 1 or 2, Group E, F & G.

Special consideration should also be given to the environmental conditions at the work site, including temperature extremes, humidity, corrosive atmospheres and the potential for dynamic loading due to vessel motion. Special materials, testing, material certifications and design modifications may be required to ensure safe operation and minimal down time of lifting equipment. Additional factors such as headroom clearance, end approach, frequency of use and the availability of utilities (electricity, compressed air) must also be considered.

Reading and understanding applicable safety standards and consulting with experienced and reputable manufacturers are two important steps in ensuring operator and facility safety when selecting hoists, cranes and rigging hardware for offshore applications.

Interested in learning more about Explosion Proof vs. Spark Resistant Hoists?
Check out our recent Safety Webinar.

Columbus McKinnon is a leading designer and manufacturer of hoists, cranes and rigging hardware for offshore environments. With a long history in the industry, we have years of experience working on offshore applications, their unique challenges  and specifying the best products suited to harsh environments. Our Chester and Yale products have been used in these applications for decades and are relied on by end users around the world.

American Made DNV Type Approved and Certified Shackles for the Oil and Gas Industry

American Made DNV Type Approved and Certified Shackles for the Oil and Gas Industry

Columbus McKinnon has recently extended its offering of DNV Type Approved and Certified Shackles to meet the growing needs of the offshore oil and gas industry.  Backed by the strong CM brand name, these Bolt & Nut style carbon anchor shackles provide reliable performance in the harshest environments.

Below are a few key features of these shackles:

  • Certified to meet DNV Standard 2.7-1 Offshore Containers SpecificationsDNV Type Approved and Certified Shackles
  • Meet RR-C-271 & ISO 2415 performance requirements
  • Heavy duty & built to last
  • Innovative design
  • Designed for use with chain, wire rope, and synthetic slings
  • Available in capacities from 4-3/4 Tons to 25 Tons
  • Made in the USA.

Did you know that our DNV shackles are manufactured in Tennessee?

In accordance with the Buy American Act, we can provide you a Certificate of Compliance at your request.
Download a DNV Shackle flyer or watch our video to discover more.

This blog post was originally written on May 14, 2013, and has recently been updated.

ATEX-compliant Solution for Natural Gas Filter Change in Shimmering Heat

ATEX-compliant Solution for Natural Gas Filter Change in Shimmering Heat


For natural gas filter towers in the Saudi-Arabian desert, our German branch, Columbus McKinnon Engineered Products GmbH has developed and installed a special lifting and traversing system for changing filter elements. This involves the use of 19 specially designed trolleys in three different sizes and eight gantry cranes made from ATEX-compliant lifting elements and electric wire rope winches from Pfaff-silberblau. This extremely heavy-duty special solution is capable of withstanding temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees F), sand and dust and even the explosive environment.

ATEX-compliant solution

The natural gas produced in the Saudi-Arabian desert is refined directly on site into a clean and effectively burning fuel by means of special filtration processes. The filter stations used for this process consist of two to four towers with an approximate diameter of three meters (9.84 ft) and a height of up to 24 meters (78.7 ft). These contain filter elements that have to be changed at regular intervals. The motion technology solution from Columbus McKinnon Engineered Products ensures that the covers on top of the towers (each weighing 16 US tons) can be safely lifted up and moved for access to the filters.

Mobile trolleys and cranes

Our engineers installed a crane for each filter station on 24 meter (78.7 ft) platforms. The cranes move on traversing rails over the towers, along with a trolley per tower, which is also moved on rails.


During inspection, the dual drive trolley moves into position at the tower cover. The gantry crane, equipped with two BETA electric wire rope winches from Pfaff-silberblau, lifts the 16 ton cover and places it on the trolley where it is locked securely in place. The trolley and cover are moved away from the tower and the crane removes the contaminated filter.  Once the old filter is extracted, the crane travels to the area where it can be lowered to the ground. A new filter is hoisted and put into place.  The cover is moved back to the tower by means of the trolley and fastened securely.

Columbus McKinnon Engineered Products and the client worked together for nine months on planning and designing this system. The entire project from start to finish took one year to complete.

The wire rope winches and lifting elements from Pfaff-silberblau used in the Saudi Arabian natural gas refinery comply with the stringent category 2 requirements of the ATEX Directives 94/9/EC and 99/92/EC, which also govern equipment used for lifting, lowering, pushing and compressing loads in plant engineering, navigation, sewage treatment plants, and chemical and food processing industries.

Current information and checklists pertaining to ATEX-compliant motion technology products from Pfaff-silberblau are available online at

Many thanks to our German office,  Columbus McKinnon Engineered Products GmbH, for submitting this application story to our blog!

Choose the CM Bundling Clip for your Heavy Duty Applications

Choose the CM Bundling Clip for your Heavy Duty Applications

Have you ever rigged a bundled load only to have that load spill out once your sling went slack?  The  solution is the CM Bundling Clip, which prevents the choker from going slack and the load from spreading after being unhooked. It also eliminates shear points and damage to wire rope. Check out our latest video and see the application for yourself.

Bundling ClipOur new Bundling Clip is built for the harsh environments and demanding applications of the oil and gas industry as well as for rail yards, logging, construction applications or wherever you are lifting, storing or moving cylindrical material.