Make or Break: 3 rules of chain maintenance

July 28, 2022

Industrial chains—sling, tow, tie down, roller chain, and beyond—keep our country moving. We rely on them to lift our heaviest loads and safely move goods from coast to coast. Chains are built to last and have the potential to remain in service for decades. But even the strongest will become compromised and pose a major risk if they aren’t properly cared for. In chain maintenance and safety, three rules simply can’t be broken.


Inspect Chain Before Every Use

Even the smallest twists or gouges could compromise a chain’s ability to perform. And whether you’re moving thousand-pound loads across a job site or across the country, the consequences of chain failure could be devastating. This is one area in life where you can’t take any chances. A qualified chain expert should inspect the chain before every use to determine whether it’s still able to safely perform within its specified working load.


Signs of Unsafe Chain:

  • Wear at the bearing points
  • Stretched links (diameter wear)
  • Corrosion
  • Broken or damaged hardware, including any cracks, burrs, twists, or gouges
  • Unapproved repairs to the chain
  • Use this downloadable checklist to record every inspection


Sling Chain: Additional Care and Precautions

When sling chain is used to lift and move heavy loads across a job site, ground workers’ safety also hangs in the balance. Because of the gravity of these operations, sling chains arguably lift the heaviest load of any chain out there. Some additional inspections are needed to certify their safety and approve them for continued service.  


Sling Chain Requirements:

  • Annual sling inspection
  • Before every use, inspect for signs of unsafe chain (listed above)
  • Make sure the level of wear falls within the acceptable range outlined by the National Association of Chain Manufacturers (NACM)



Always Use the Right Chain for the Job

This rule is simple: only use alloy sling chains for lifting (Grades 80, 100, or 120), and tow and tie down chains for hauling heavy loads—no exceptions. If you find yourself in need of a sling chain but only have tie down chain on hand, for example, it doesn’t matter how light your load is to lift, tie down chain isn’t safe to use for overhead lifting applications.


Best Practices for Chain

  • Never exceed the working load limit
  • Avoid shock loading any chain
  • Never tie chain in a knot
  • Select the right chain for the job (a.k.a. never use tie down chain for overhead lifting)
  • Use the right number of chains


Store Chain in a Dry, Mild Climate

When it comes to protecting the integrity of your chain and extending its life, corrosion is your worst enemy. Corrosion is a progressive, irreversible reaction to moisture, high-humidity, extreme climates, or other environments. This kind of exposure can easily occur if your chain isn’t properly stored.


How to Prevent Chain Damage and Corrosion:

  • Make sure the chain is clean and dry before putting it into storage
  • Keep chain off the ground and away from corrosive environments
  • Use a-frames to easily organize and transport multiple chains



Like everything else in the world, no chain will last forever but following these basic rules will help keep your chain safe and in service for much longer. For more resources on chain, subscribe to the Laclede Chain newsletter.