Iowa Construction Site Injuries – Safe and effective use of slings

Reported in the online Gazette, Blahnik Construction (Iowa Corp. No. 139932) was fined $7,000.00 for an incident in which two employees were injured when slings being used to lift a 12,000 pound compressor in an elevator shaft broke. The two employees were apparently pinned by the compressor when it fell. No report as to how far it fell or how stout the slings were that they were being using.  Blahnik Construction Company is a corporation registered to do business in the State of Iowa. The Iowa Secretary of State’s website shows it to be a Code 490 Domestic Profit business with it’s home office at 150 50th Ave. Drive SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52404.  It’s been on file since December 29, 1989. The registered agent is Terry M. Kohout of the same address.  The president is Timothy T. French of the same address.

Blahnik Construction has its own website wherein the company prides itself on having provided construction services for over 75 years. A company with that kind of history is one that would certainly be the kind encouraging employee training.


For over 75 years, Blahnik Construction Company has been providing commercial and industrial construction, plus equipment installation and maintenance services.

Blahnik Construction offers a total construction solution.  Our qualifications include:   

·                        A professional office staff and the area's most experienced field staff

·                        New and well maintained equipment to complete your project efficiently and economically

·                        A full service fabrication shop, producing structural and miscellaneous metals of all types

·                        A state of the art information management system, providing a full range of project management and accounting functions

·                        A never ending commitment to safety and employee training

·                        The ability to provide 24 hour operations to accommodate the most demanding schedules and client requirements

·                        In-house design capabilities

·                        The experience gained over 75 years of continuous operation

Why Blahnik?

Blahnik Construction has been building relationships for over three-fourths of a century. During that time we have focused on our clients expectations, offering personal, professional service at a competitive price.  We have a thorough knowledge of the industries, businesses, facilities, and personnel that comprise the Eastern Iowa Market.  We are committed to maintaining our reputation as a leading commercial and industrial contractor.

The Iowa Workers’ Compensation decisions show one case wherein Blahnik Construction is mentioned.  Merle Wilson vs. SG Junker & Associates, April 17, 2001, File No. 1252806, Arbitration Decision by the Deputy. You can obtain a pdf version of the decision by following this link.

In Merle vs. SG Junker & Associates the following passage mentions Blahnik Construction:

After the claimant's recovery from the surgery for the work injury and full release to return to work, the claimant began work for Blahnik Construction Company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at their work site for Quaker Oats Company. The claimant started work on October 4, 1999, for Blahnik and his rate of pay is $21.02 per hour. His job title now is millwright foreman. This new job does not require the claimant to lift although the claimant does keep his toolbox at work. He has only used that toolbox on about a dozen occasions since he began work there.

The claimant thinks that if he were no longer able to work as a millwright foreman and had to go back to working as a millwright, he would not be able to do the work because of the back surgery.

Since the surgery the claimant no longer golfs, boats, camps, or ice fishes. He feels he is no longer as attentive to his children and that he doesn't wrestle with his son any longer. The claimant realizes that he does not have restrictions but is concerned that he may hurt himself again and wouldn't be able to provide for his family. He sometimes still experiences back pain.

The full article doesn’t report the sections of OSHA regulations that were allegedly violated.

Sling safety on the OSHA site is discussed in detail and has been created due to the number of injuries caused by the moving of materials using improper methods.

Introduction to Sling Safety

To varying degrees, all employees in numerous workplaces take part in materials handling. Consequently, some employees are injured. In fact, the mishandling of materials is the single largest cause of accidents and injuries in the workplace. Most of these accidents and injuries, as well as the pain and loss of salary and productivity that often result, can be readily avoided. Whenever possible, mechanical means should be used to move materials to avoid employee injuries such as muscle pulls, strains, and sprains. In addition, many loads are too heavy and/or bulky to be safely moved manually. Various types of equipment, therefore, have been designed specifically to aid in the movement of materials: cranes, derricks, hoists, powered industrial trucks, and conveyors.

Workers should not be cutting corners or moving materials when they are not familiar with proper material handling techniques.  To know how to move materials safely you need to know sling types.

Sling Types

The dominant characteristics of a sling are determined by the components of that sling. For example, the strengths and weaknesses of a wire rope sling are essentially the same as the strengths and weaknesses of the wire rope of which it is made.

Slings are generally one of six types: chain, wire rope, metal mesh, natural fiber rope, synthetic fiber rope, or synthetic web. In general, use and inspection procedures tend to place these slings into three groups: chain, wire rope and mesh, and fiber rope web. Each type has its own particular advantages and disadvantages. Factors to consider when choosing the best sling for the job include the size, weight, shape, temperature, and sensitivity of the material to be moved, as well as the environmental conditions under which the sling will be used.

If your employer doesn’t have someone knowledgeable about slings ask to be sent to a school for additional training.  Training will help you to better understand safe lifting practices; size, weight, and center of gravity of the load; number of legs and angle with the horizontal, rated capacity of the sling; history or care and usage of the sling you’re being asked to use; proper maintenance of slings, chains, wire ropes and fiber & synthetic ropes. It’s always better to admit you’re not sure of how to safely do the job and to ask for training than to guess wrong. Employers would be wise to encourage safety programs that educate workers on safe material handling methods.

Training and Education

OSHA's area offices offer a variety of information services, such as publications. audiovisual aids, technical advice. and speakers special engagements. OSHA's Training Institute in
Des Plaines, IL, provides basic and advanced courses in safety and health for federal and state compliance officers, state consultants, federal agency personnel, and private sector employers, employees, and their representatives.

OSHA also provides funds to nonprofit organizations. through grants, to conduct workplace training and education in subjects where OSHA believes there is a lack of workplace training. Grants are awarded annually. Grant recipients are expected to contribute 20 percent of the total grant cost.

For more information on grants, training and education, contact the OSHA Training Institute, Office of Training and Education, 1555 Times Drive.
Des Plaines, IL 60018, (847) 297-4810. For further information on any OSHA program contact your nearest OSHA area or regional office listed at the end of this booklet.

The OSHA standard that applies is 1910.184.  That standard has to do with rating capacity testing of slings and how much weight slings can safely handle.

The questions posed by your memorandum of June 7, 1988, are answered as follows:

1. The proof testing of slings is the responsibility of the sling manufacturer or equivalent entity as delineated by the standard at 29 CFR 1910.184(e)(4), (g)(5), and (i)(8)(ii). The employer shall retain a "certificate of proof test" and shall make it available for examination by OSHA compliance officers.

It is believed that any proof load testing of workplace slings by other than the manufacturer or equivalent entity is an unacceptable loading and would necessitate that the sling be taken out of service unless written permission to test is obtained form the sling manufacturer. Users of slings must not exceed the sling manufacturer's specifications and requirements pertaining to use and loadings.

The requirements imposed by the Boeing Company upon their subcontractors to repeatedly proof test slings to two (2) times rated load is not a recognized inspection procedure under the OSHA standards and would be a violation of 29 CFR 1910.184 (c)(4). However, should the sling manufacturer provide written permission to test the slings on a regular basis to a load greater than the designated working load, OSHA could consider the violation de minimus. Of course the procedures for such testing would also need to comply with the manufacturer's recommendations.

The repeated testing of spreader bars and similar equipment seems to provide little more assurance of continued reliability than the visual inspections required by the various standards, including OSHA's. Properly conducted visual inspections together with the careful reporting of misuse and various damaging exposures will provide for the continued reliability of the lifting equipment. Should periodic load testing be desired, it is recommended that slings be returned to the manufacturer or equivalent entity for the conduct of detailed inspection and load tests.

2. 29 CFR 1910.184(c)(4) prohibits loading any sling beyond the rated capacity.

3. Only the manufacturer or equivalent entity are permitted to proof test and certify.

4. Certification is exclusively the right of only the manufacturer of new slings. Repaired slings may be certified by an equivalent entity who made the repairs.

June 7, 1988

If a sling is damaged or worn it should never again be used. Throw it away and get a new one. If a sling is involved in an incident or accident don’t use it again.

A mandatory requirement in those regulations is that "Slings that are damaged or defective shall not be used." Obviously, following such a rule calls for frequent careful inspections. In the same regulation, and again in 29 CFR 1926.251 ("Rigging Equipment"), OSHA prescribes these inspection requirements:

"Each day before being used, the sling and all fastenings and attachments shall be inspected for damage or defect by a competent person designated by the employer. Additional inspections shall be performed during sling use, where service conditions warrant. Damaged or defective slings shall be immediately removed from service."

B30.16 applies to the construction, installation, operation, inspection, testing, and maintenance of hand chain-operated chain hoists and electric and air-powered chain and wire ropes hoists used for, but not limited to, vertical lifting and lowering of freely suspended, unguided, loads which consist of equipment and materials. Requirements for a hoist that is used for a special purpose, such as, but not limited to, tensioning a load, nonvertical lifting service, lifting a guided load, lifting personnel, or drawing both the load and the hoist up or down the load chain or rope when the hoist is attached to the load, are not included in this volume. (J11607)

There should be a documented history of inspections.  If not you’ve got trouble brewing. Iowa has an approved plan. Simply phone 515-284-4794 or 515-281-5352.

Inspection history

All slings should have a documented inspection history, and be labeled with a durable tag permanently attached. Remember that the annual inspection interval is a maximum. Hard usage, or the first appearance of trouble at daily inspection, will justify closer surveillance. For any "thorough" inspection, follow the recommendations of ASME B30.16 (see box) and of the hoist or sling manufacturer.

Visit the U.S. Department of Labor website and learn as much as you can about the equipment you use during construction jobs.

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