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

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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:



Mike, a Lead Rigging Technician for an equipment rental company in the entertainment industry and recent safety webinar attendee, asks:

“How far away should you be to read a RFID chip for rigging equipment tracking and inspection?”

Troy Raines, Columbus McKinnon Chain & Rigging Product Engineering Manager and safety webinar presenter, answers:

This is an excellent and frequently asked question.  The simple answer is that it depends on the type of RFID chip being used in the product. For CM Smart ID, we chose a chip that would require the user to touch the reader to the chip. While this might seem inconvenient, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages for the following two reasons:

  1. To properly inspect any piece of rigging hardware, the qualified person must actually handle it. It wouldn’t be safe or effective to “inspect” rigging hardware from any distance. There is too much risk that a minor issue could be overlooked until it became a more serious safety hazard.
  2. To effectively track inventory, it wouldn’t be accurate to accidently scan the wrong shackle because multiple shackles in the area could be read at the same time. The count would frequently be wrong because you wouldn’t know which shackles were and were not scanned.

Want to learn more? View our Safety Webinar on RFID: Simplifying Rigging Hardware Inspection and Tracking.


Are Chain ID Tags Required on Tie-Downs?

July 23, 2015

Brad recently asked the following question in response to a blog post The Low-Down on Chain Tie-Downs: “I wrote to my distributor and inquired about chain tags. Their representative replied that all they had in stock were CHAIN TAGS even though they listed CHAIN and SLING tags made by CM. They sent me their part […]

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Understanding Chain Slings: Why Do Only 3 of 4 Chain Legs Take the Load?

July 16, 2015

Randy, an Instrument Technician in the energy industry and recent safety webinar attendee, asks: “Why do only 3 of 4 chain sling legs take the load?” Peter Cooke, Columbus McKinnon Training Manager and Safety Webinar Presenter, answers: When using a chain to build a sling, tolerances for chain can make the legs slightly longer or […]

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Unified Industries Helps Automotive Manufacturer Solve Assembly Line Challenge

July 9, 2015

To help solve an ergonomic problem they were encountering on their assembly line, a large automotive OEM approached Columbus McKinnon’s Unified Industries and our Channel Partner for assistance. At the facility, employees working at the customer’s final assembly unload station were having difficulty moving the existing steel trussed overhead crane system – to the point […]

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Summer Concert Series: Where is your CM Hoist?

July 4, 2015

    Who doesn’t love the summer time and seeing a great concert with your favorite band? A few of our fans recently shared photos from their favorite summer concerts (top left, clockwise): Eric Church, country music in Buffalo, New York. Al Bano & Romina Power Performance. A duo from the past performing at the Roman […]

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In-Depth Alloy Chain Sling Inspection Part 5: OSHA Chain Sling Inspection

June 18, 2015

This article is Part 5 of a 5-part blog series that will cover what professional riggers should consider when performing an in-depth alloy chain sling inspection. Today, we’ll discuss OSHA chain sling inspection regulations and guidelines. Since first published on July 27, 1975, the OSHA Chain Sling Inspection section has undergone very few changes. These regulations have and […]

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Recommendations for Skewing Issues on an Overhead Crane

June 11, 2015

Daniel, a salesperson for a Columbus McKinnon Channel Partner and recent safety webinar attendee, asks: “On my overhead crane, the rail to flange contact is opposite end-to-end of the end truck. On one end truck, the drive wheel to the flange is on the inside and on the other wheel, the contact is on the outside. […]

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In-Depth Alloy Chain Sling Inspection Part 4: Stretch and Chain Elongation

June 4, 2015

This article is Part 4 of a 5-part blog series that will cover what professional riggers should consider when performing an in-depth alloy chain sling inspection. Today, we’ll discuss stretch and chain elongation. A visual link-by-link inspection is the best way to detect dangerously stretched alloy chain links. Reach should also be measured from the […]

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Pfaff-silberblau Products Perform in “The Miracle of Bern”

May 21, 2015

Columbus McKinnon recently supplied Pfaff-silberblau brand products for a new musical venue in Hamburg, Germany. Stage Entertainment constructed the ultra-modern performance venue, “Theater an der Elbe,” capable of holding more than 1,800 spectators for the production of “The Miracle of Bern.” Stage Entertainment commissioned Columbus McKinnon Engineered Products GmbH, based in Kissing, for the design, […]

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