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TABOO: The Material Handling Carabiner. OR: Why Doesn’t anyone make a Screw Gate?

Updated: May 19, 2021

One of the things I love about our company is before hiring me as the Safety Administrator I worked in the field for a year. It was a great experience. I got to meet so many awesome people and work in the industry. Now I still get to see everyone. But in a position where I am making sure they are equipped with what they need to perform their work and to handle any concerns or rigging needs that they may have.

One of the things I learned in the field: Everyone is required to use shackles for rigging but everyone WANTS to use carabiners. In the field I was told this was vendor stipulation. At my rescue training I was told it was OSHA law. I have since learned it is a stipulation of most tower owners. OSHA and ANSI do not require this. They refer to all devices as “connectors”. But why can’t we use them?

The primary reason is easy: They are rated in kilonewtons and not a working load. They are meant as fall protection and not for materials. The other reason that is often addressed is that the gates can be opened easily if they rub during a lift. As the Safety Administrator I make sure that all our crews have shackles and hooks for lifting. But from my knowledge in the field and the first part of my title (SAFETY), I have several issues:

1. A shackle requires two hands to open and close. On the ground this is not an issue. At height it means that I need to be positioned off to remove or add a load. This presents a safety concern. The risk of a technician falling is exponentially increased.

2. When removing or adding a load, any part of the two-piece shackle could be dropped, presenting a falling object hazard to anyone on the ground.

So, what if we encountered a tower owner who allowed Material Handling Carabiners? There would still be the issue of the standard auto-lock/auto-close carabiner opening during a lift. The fact is, every Material Handling Carabiner I have seen looks to be of the same design as our fall protection carabiners. Auto-locking/auto-closing, but painted orange and stamped differently. How could you ensure this thing does not open during a lift? Easy: Make it a screw gate.

Our industry has taught us very clearly that ALL carabiners must be auto-locking and auto-closing. But this is a standard for FALL PROTECTION. I have yet to see a auto-locking and auto-closing shackle. What if someone made a MATERIAL handling carabiner with a screw gate?

Screw gates are very common in climbing. They are usually preferred. Opening them is a very intentional act. The concern of rollout is almost non-existent. In industrial climbing, they are used in harsher environments where dirt or ice could prevent an auto-locker from closing.

Material handling hooks have filled the gap in the meantime. But I think if someone were to create a SCREW GATE MATERIAL HANDLING CARABINER it could provide a safe, lightweight, cost-effective solution. Hint hint…

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