Is Your Material Handling Equipment Tough Enough for Arctic Environments?


by  on October 7, 2014

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.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe Runyon Joe Runyon June 10, 2016 at 5:42 pm

Hello Eugene,
Thanks very much for writing us and my apologies for our delay in response.

The only hoist brand with which I am personally familiar, that designs and builds chain hoist for -40 degrees, is our Chester brand. Under the Chester brand, the appropriate models would be the “Zephyr” model for manual hoists, or Chester “Model ELM” for electric chain hoists. It should be pointed out that these hoist models in their standard form are not intended for use in -40 degrees ambient temperature. It is only when that temperature requirement is identified in the customer’s request for quotation that special materials of construction would be utilized to achieve the required temperature rating.

It is also possible that there might be other brands in the marketplace that could also be offered for arctic duty, but Chester is the only brand for which I have knowledge of product being previously supplied and successfully used in these extreme conditions.


Eugene May 24, 2016 at 4:07 am

Dear Joe!
For begining, Sorry for my Elglish!
We’d like to ask your advice on buying a chain hoist with trolley SWL 3.2t
working temperature -40 – +40. We need hoist for realy cold climate zone, we buidl crane for arctic vessel.
Which manufacturer makes reliable chain hoists for cold temperatures. Maybe you know the name of hoists models?

Thanks in advance for your answer!

Joe Runyon Joe Runyon April 14, 2016 at 1:02 pm

Hi Kiyel,

I’m glad you found the article of interest. As for your questions regarding a “grading scale or safety certificates” I would say this. When purchasing lifting equipment for artic environments, the manufacturer should be able to provide you a Certificate of Compliance stating the minimum operating temperature for which the equipment is designed and fabricated. They should also be able to list all special material and testing that is utilized to make the product suitable for that environment. Lastly, material traceability reports (MTR) and test reports (such as Charpy impact test), should be made available as verification of those special materials and testing. Please don’t hesitate to contact myself or any of our Application Engineers with further questions.

kiyel williams April 14, 2016 at 12:43 pm

I had no idea that machinery and equipment needing to be specifically designed to withstand certain extremes. I wonder if there is a particular grading scale or safety certificates you can look for when selecting equipment. I will pass this information on to my friend looking for new equipment. Thank you for the information!

Joe Runyon Joe Runyon March 2, 2016 at 10:00 am

Shirley, I am very sorry to hear of the incident with your crane. It sounds like it could have been much worse. Hopefully it can serve as a learning experience to prevent future accidents.

Joe Runyon Joe Runyon March 1, 2016 at 3:15 pm

I’m so glad that you liked the article Kevin. Hopefully you have also had a chance to check out some of our other recent blogs. We are constantly posting new and useful information. Thanks !

Kevin Robin February 27, 2016 at 1:39 am

An excellent blog about Lifting Equipment Inspection and thanks for sharing this useful information with us.

Shirley February 26, 2016 at 7:58 pm

It’s a really big mistake when you take an ordinary crane that is not fit for the cold temperature. We had an accident as our supervisor really didn’t pay attention to the warning labels on the crane, good thing that the crane experienced problems before the start of the operation, which makes pre-operation inspection more and more important.

Joe Runyon Joe Runyon January 26, 2016 at 3:42 pm

Hello Molar,
Thank you for your kind words. We appreciate your feedback and are glad that you find our blog to be a valuable resource.
– Joe

Molar Fastagu January 25, 2016 at 3:06 am

A very good information is provided so far thanks . i read on many sites but the content on this site is very good. i like to read about cranes and their functionality. thank you very much

Joe Runyon Joe Runyon November 30, 2015 at 9:36 am

Thanks Mark. I’m glad you enjoyed the article. You’re right. Most folks think about special lubricants and heaters for gear boxes and controls, but the actual structure often goes ignored. Hopefully we are helping to raise awareness to this critical safety issue.


Mark Logan November 26, 2015 at 6:13 pm

Excellent article. Everyone understands about hoist function and lubrication difficulties with the colder temperatures but many don’t realize the adverse effects cold temperatures have on the structural steel of the crane system.


Joe Runyon Joe Runyon September 18, 2015 at 3:51 pm

Thanks, Zach. Your comment is spot on! Even when proper precautions are taken to source lifting equipment that is designed and built specifically for arctic environments, the need for inspection and maintenance of the equipment is still critically important. Risk of failure due to worn or damaged parts or lack of proper lubrication can greatly increase when operating in frigid temperatures.


Zach Thalman September 18, 2015 at 3:23 pm

It must be really touched and go with all that machinery that has to work in those harsh environments. The lifting gear would have to be checked all the time to make sure that everything still worked properly and was all ready to work. You would have to be extra careful to avoid injury or any big accident.

Joe Runyon Joe Runyon August 19, 2015 at 9:27 am

Hi Steve,
Thank you for your positive feedback. We’re glad you found the article to be of value. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you ever have questions regarding hoists and rigging products.

Steve Holt August 18, 2015 at 5:44 pm

This seems like great advice for construction companies that are working in arctic environments. I can see how equipment would be affected by extreme cold environments. Companies want to make sure that their equipment will be able to work without being damaged, so consulting manufacturers before using any equipment in cold environments seems like a great tip to know. Thanks for the information!

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