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Top Tips for Happy Hand Hauling

Hand Hauling and Rigging

Hand hauling – ie lifting and lowering light loads of goods, materials or equipment by hand – is nothing new. It happens regularly on worksites all over Australia.

But what has been missing – until recently – is access to equipment ideally suited to hand hauling. 

As a result, a widespread practice of using PPE or industrial-grade equipment for hand hauling has emerged. For example, using carabiners designed for fall arrest (not load lifting) and using pulleys designed for rescue. 

This is a dangerous mistake to make. Whilst these tools may look the part – they’re not fit-for-purpose and therefore not right for the job.

So what are the right tools for hand hauling? It’s a good question that we’ve found has not been well canvassed. That lack of clarity is the problem we hope to address with these guidelines. 

Top Hand Hauling Tips

In Australia there are no safety standards or codes of practice that deal directly and specifically with hand hauling. Any relevant requirements are covered more broadly under lifting and rigging. 

However there are regulations and directives we can draw on globally – and have done so for these guidelines. We also draw on more than 20 years of first-hand height safety experience.

So, here are our top tips for happy hand hauling! As always, use general guidance like this with care (we are not lifting experts) and always seek advice for your particular needs and situation.

#1 Only Hand Haul Light Loads 

There are no hard-and-fast rules to help identify scenarios best suited to hand hauling (vs lifting or rigging). So we’ve focused on where hand hauling is most likely to be safe and effective.

In practice, the biggest determining factor for this is the weight of the load you’re lifting. Even when using the right tools, hand hauling relies on manpower – which limits the load you can safely lift. 

Is your maximum load-lift capacity 100kg? Perhaps it’s more – or is it less? Knowing your limits and only considering hand hauling loads that fall below those limits is an important first step.

#2 Ensure the Load is Secure

Next consider the package of goods, materials or equipment you need to shift. 

Are you looking at a single solid item with a dedicated lifting point (ie heavy but easy to lift)? Or a number of long circular items (eg PVC pipes) that are light but wobbly and difficult to sling? Can you adequately compress and contain the load? Or break it down into more manageable lifts?

For your own safety, always ensure that any load you hand haul is secure.

#3 Only Use Fit-for-Purpose Equipment

For hand hauling, you basically need four pieces of equipment – a sling, a connector, rope and a lifting device (or pulley). Each item must be both fit-for-purpose and compatible with each other.

A small selection of hand hauling equipment options are shown below (see our Lifting Collection for more). As with every product we sell, all meet Australian height safety requirements. In this case, they do so by complying with relevant global industry safety standards for rigging hardware. 

These include the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME B30), Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and the European Union’s CE mark of conformity.

As always, seek expert advice before purchasing. Ensure the manufacturer’s intended use matches yours. Be sure to fully understand limitations. Follow instructions for safe and correct use.

Step 1: Choose your Lifting Device (Pulley)

Not all pulleys are created equal. Pulleys designed exclusively for lifting people should not be used for lifting loads. They are not built and have not been tested or load-rated for this purpose. 

The good news is there are plenty of pulleys ideal for hand hauling. Here are just a few:

It’s important to note that pulleys can work differently. 

For example, the Tornado and ISC Pulley both have one-way locking bearings. This means the wheels are locked in one direction (to give maximum friction for safe lowering) but run freely in the other (to minimise friction when lifting). They also both have a locking cam (locks when released) to prevent accidental load drops.

However, whilst the Cyclone also has a locking cam, it is a low friction integrated pulley wheel. Which is different again from the Securpulley – a gin wheel with its own unique automated braking system.

Each pulley will also have its own load rating. The above examples range from 50kg to 600kg. It is imperative that you always work within the load rating of the device you are using.


Step 2: Add Matching Rope

The most important consideration here is compatibility. Always use the exact rope that your lifting device (pulley) specifies. Never use anything different.

The danger of a mismatched rope is that your lifting device doesn’t perform as expected. For example, a rope that’s too fat or thin for the device may reduce or increase friction. It may even affect the grab and grip of the locking cam. 

So, go straight to the manufacturer’s instructions. Get the rope your device was made for.


Step 3: Use the Right Connector

Never use a PPE Carabiner

It’s not uncommon to see carabiners being used for hand hauling. With a few notable exceptions (such as a load-rated carabiner) this is a dangerous mistake. 

Almost all carabiners are PPE. They’ve been designed to withstand the sudden impact of a person falling and tested only to PPE standards. 

They have not been designed to work with loads and slings, which can transfer some of the pressure placed on a carabiner away from the spine (strongest part) and onto the nose. Our own in-house testing of this has seen a 5-tonne strength carabiner break under 2-tonnes of pressure!

Nor are they built for the more frequent and prolonged strain of lifting and lowering loads. Misuse of a carabiner for this purpose can weaken it over time. We recommend the immediate removal of any such compromised carabiners from your stocks.

Only use a Load-Rated Carabiner

The exception to this rule is a load-rated carabiner – such as this one from Tuf-Tug.

Tuf-Tug Material Quick Connect Link

This one-of-a-kind carabiner is suitable for use in lifting and rigging. It’s compact, strong, durable and has a safe working load limit of up to 680kg.

It also has a closed loop design to protect against dropped loads (from accidental tip loading). And a double safe auto-locking / auto-latching gate. 

Using a load-rated carabiner as your connector also has some advantages over using a shackle. The primary advantage is that it can be used single-handedly. You have your pulley in one hand and carabiner in the other. You connect and lock the two together – and you’re ready to go.

Alternatively use a Shackle

Shackles are suitable for load-lifting and widely used in hand hauling situations. This is a go-to option for many and clearly a far safer option than accidentally misusing a PPE carabiner.

The only problem with a shackle is that it’s a two-piece. You have to undo the pin and take it out – so you have the pin in one hand and your shackle in the other. Now you have to thread it around your sling, adjust the pulley to line up with the pin and then put it all back together. 

So let’s say you’re out on the job and need to hand haul a satellite dish or aerial up a telco tower. Between your rope, sling, pulley and two-piece shackle – you’ll have your hands more than full!


Step 4: Select your Sling

Finally to your sling!

There are a variety of lifting slings out there – including wire rope, fibre rope, chain, synthetic web and metal mesh slings. Here are just a few examples:

To narrow down your search, start with weight and compatibility. Does the weight of the load fit within the safe working load limit of your sling? Is your sling compatible with your connector?

Next shortlist slings best-suited to the physical characteristics of the load (size, shape, sharp edges, surface temperature) and to environmental conditions (humidity, presence of corrosive agents). 

Finally, consider the load’s distribution and centre of gravity. This will help when determining which slinging configuration will provide the greatest security and optimal load balance.


#4 Licensed Lifters Only  

Under Queensland’s Work Health & Safety Regulations – you must have a Basic Rigger’s High Risk Work Licence (with the Dogging Unit of Competency) to do dogging, rigging or lifting work.

This ensures that only those with sufficient knowledge, skills, competency and safe work systems are involved in activities that demand such high levels of safety.

When it comes to hand hauling, you will need to employ dogging and rigging skills, including:

  • Determine the load weight (mass) and centre of gravity
  • Select the right load-rated lifting equipment
  • Identifying the best-suited sling and slinging method
  • Inspect lifting equipment and remedy any defects
  • (In blind spots) monitor the load and communicate with others 
  • Rig a hand haul system or hoist system if required 
  • Place and secure the load
  • Direct and move the load

#5 Keep the Path Below Clear

We can never eliminate entirely the risk of falling objects or loads being dropped. But we can minimise the consequences of such a scenario – by always keeping the coast below clear.

As such, you must take all necessary measures to ensure that no-one is situated directly below or in the path of a suspended load during the hand hauling process.

This may include repositioning yourself for a safer angle, temporarily relocating workers out of harms way or utilising quiet times on-site to complete hand hauling activities.

#6 Maintain Access & Control

It’s imperative that you remain in control of the load at all times. To do this, you must have the right equipment, position yourself carefully and allow for rapid access to your lifting device if needed. 

If at any time the load becomes too heavy or the rope slips out of your hand, will the load fall? This can be prevented by selecting a lifting device that has a built-in safety locking mechanism and applies friction to enable controlled lowering.

However, what if your lifting device jams, or the load ends up in the wrong place? You’ll likely need quick access to your pulley to rectify. Which will be difficult if, for example, you’re on the ground and your pulley system is located several stories up on the side of a tower. That’s why positioning yourself within reach of your pulley (where possible) is important.