Advantages and disadvantages of common lifting slings

Thursday, 28 January 2021

In the lifting industry there is a plethora of equipment that can be chosen for every type of application. Looking at slings alone, you have chain slings, wire rope slings, synthetic slings, webbing slings, synthetic rope slings among others, which makes choosing the right equipment a challenge at times. This article looks at the most common types of lifting slings, their ideal applications as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each type allowing you to determine the best sling to suit your lifting application.

If you find you are not getting the service life you expect from your lifting sling, you may find there is a better sling choice that will provide better equipment longevity. Choosing the right sling is dependent on a few different factors. These include having a complete understanding of your lifting application (i.e. the weight of the load and the centre of gravity), the environment you will be using the sling in (i.e. clearance and surrounding conditions) as well as how the sling will be used to support and lift the load (i.e. hitch type and geometry/sling angles). For more information on factors to consider before choosing a sling, please read our Smarter Lifting article ‘How to choose the right sling’. For the pros and cons of common lifting slings, please read on.

Wire rope slings

Wire rope slings are a common lifting choice for many reasons, it is typically chosen for its strength and flexibility as well as its ability to handle bending stresses. You will find wire rope slings are commonly chosen in the construction, oil and gas and manufacturing industries due to their ability to lift heavy loads and withstand tough conditions.

Wire rope slings are available in a variety of assemblies from single to multi-leg and in hitches like direct, choke and basket. With the vast variety of wire rope and terminations available in the market, you will be able to choose a configuration that will complete your lift.





Lighter in weight than chain slings and they also have a lower initial cost.


Have low strength to weight ratio compared to alternatives in the market.


High strength and flexibility in smaller diameters/designs.


Inspection can be difficult especially when it comes to inspecting internal strands due to the layered construction of the rope.


Different designs and constructions provide different benefits including strength, flexibility, abrasion resistance, fatigue resistance and corrosion resistance.


Incorrect use or abuse can cause kinking, crushing or abrasion which can result in damage and loss of strength and cause the equipment to be tagged out of service.


Braided or multi-part slings are more resistant to kinking, have higher flexibility, sit tightly around the load in choker hitches and are able to quickly regain their original shape after a lift.


Wire rope slings are not repairable, once a sling has been tagged out of service the sling should be destroyed and disposed to prevent future use.


Can be used in vertical, choker, and basket hitches.


Can be susceptible to internal and external corrosion.


If the wire rope is damaged, the hardware such as master links and hooks can be re-used provided, they are not damaged also saving additional costs.


There are trade-offs between the design and construction. I.e. A wire rope that is more abrasion resistant will offer less fatigue resistance and vice versa.




Steel core slings should never be used at temperatures above 200°C or below -4°C.


Chain slings

Chain slings can be used to lift heavy loads on a repetitive basis and their flexible design provides strength and durability to withstand impact, extreme temperatures and exposure to chemicals. Chain slings are typically used in foundries, steel mills, heavy machine shops and any other environments where harsh conditions would damage wire rope or synthetic slings. While there are many different types of chain available, grade 80 and 100 are normally recommended for overhead lifting.

Chain slings can be configured in 1, 2, 3 or 4 leg design and in a variety of leg lengths. They can be used in straight, choke or basket hitches and can be assembled with different attachments including master and connecting links, and clevis sling, grab shortening and self-locking hooks.





Can be used in harsh operating environments (i.e. high temperatures) due to its high-strength, durable and flexible design. Chain slings are resistant to corrosion, chemicals, and UV exposure and they are also not affected by dirt, oil or grease.


The longer the chain and the higher the working load limit, the heavier the sling will be.


Can be repaired if damaged, individual chain links or link segments can be replaced. They are also easy to inspect, proof-test and re-certify when repaired.


Cost is typically higher than alternatives Can be more expensive than wire rope or synthetic slings


Damage can be obvious especially when overloaded. The chain can elongate 15-20% when overloaded giving a visual indicator that it needs to be destroyed and removed from service.


Can damage or crush sensitive, delicate or finished loads.


Synthetic slings

Synthetic slings are one of the most common pieces of lifting equipment, their flexibility and strength make them are a good choice when you need to lift a load that is susceptible to crushing or damage such as scratches. Typically made from nylon or polyester fibre makes these slings lightweight and extremely flexible allowing them to mould to the shape of your load. Synthetic slings are commonly used in in construction and other general industries due their low cost and variety of sizes.





Inexpensive and lightweight.


Have relatively low heat-resistance and should not be used in high-heat applications.


The soft and flexible materials grips and moulds to the shape of your load.


Special considerations must be given when choosing a synthetic sling to use in chemical applications. Nylon and polyester slings have different resistance characteristics to acidic and alkaline environments.


Strong enough to lift heavy loads but will also protect expensive and delicate loads from scratching and crushing.


Can be susceptible to damage like abrasions and cuts, corner protectors or edge guards should be used to protect against sharp edges.


The variety of materials and construction mean you will be able to find a synthetic slings to suit almost any lifting application.





In conclusion

When choosing a lifting sling, you should give consideration to a range of factors to not only ensure safety but also reliability and consistent performance. Consider things like; is the load valuable and easily prone to damage? Does the load have sharp and rigid edges or corners that can damage the sling? Does your sling need to be resistant to harsh environments? Will the weight of the sling affect its use (i.e. Can it be lifted, moved, and carried to where it needs to go or do you need additional equipment)? Do you want a sling that is easy to inspect and can be repaired, proof-tested and re-certified?

Nobles provides high quality lifting and rigging equipment as well as technical services and engineering design for complete solutions to your heaviest and most complex lifting requirements. With twelve locations across all mainland states of Australia and the Northern Territory, we have decades of experience supplying and servicing geographically dispersed and highly demanding industries.

If you would like advice on choosing a lifting sling, please contact our team of lifting and rigging specialists on 1300 711 559 who will be more than happy to answer any of your questions.


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