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What Can Cause Ratchet Straps to Come Loose? Common Mistakes Explained

What Can Cause Ratchet Straps to Come Loose? Common Mistakes Explained

A loose ratchet strap is bad news. Although these humble devices are extraordinarily safe when used correctly, the slightest of mistakes - or poor quality equipment - can result in the strap loosening, potentially placing lives at risk. At best, your cargo could be severely damaged as a result, potentially costing yourself or your employer thousands of pounds and landing you in hot water!

Safety is paramount when using ratchet straps. But if you feel like you’re doing everything correctly and are still noticing loose straps at the journey’s end, you’ve come to the right place for assistance.

In this guide, we’re taking an in-depth look at the reasons why ratchet straps loosen and how you can prevent this from happening again in the future. But first, a reminder of the importance of keeping your ratchet straps tight.

The dangers of loose ratchet straps

If ratchet straps weren’t safe, they wouldn’t be so widely used. It’s been over a century and a half since these now-ubiquitous tie down devices were first invented, yet they remain the default choice for amateurs and professionals alike. If cargo needs securing, we reach for our ratchet straps.

The beauty of their design, like many great inventions, lies in their simplicity. There’s relatively little to go wrong on a ratchet strap, but, nevertheless, mistakes do get made and accidents do happen. According to Highways England data, 33,000 reports of ratchet strap debris were made between April 2013 and May 2020. And in 2019 alone, more than 5,500 accidents were caused by debris left on UK roads as a result of loose or failed ratchet straps.

These statistics are a reminder that the dangers of loose straps are very real: lives can easily be put in danger, with severe consequences for all involved.

What causes ratchet straps to work loose?

Typically, ratchet straps work loose due to vibrations or jolts caused by bumpy road surfaces, or because the cargo you’re trying to secure is moving around too much.

Nothing can be done about lumpy road surfaces; the UK isn’t known for having the tidiest highways and byways, after all. So, the focus instead has to be on securing the cargo tightly enough that it can’t jolt around.

If your straps are working loose, take a look at the following pointers to help you diagnose and rectify the issue.

What can you do to prevent this from happening

Make sure you’re using the right straps for the job

Ratchet straps aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. You can’t use just one type of strap for a wide variety of loads; you have to instead choose an appropriate thickness and strength rating for the weight of the load you’re planning to transport.

For example, if you use a heavy duty 10-tonne ratchet strap to secure a featherweight load, the rigidity of the webbing material will make it very difficult to secure the load tightly without causing damage. Conversely, if you use a strap that’s not rated to support the weight of your load, it’s likely to fail prematurely.

Check that the straps are compliant

Even if your straps say they’re rated for the load you’re transporting, have they been thoroughly tested and validated? Do they meet the BS-EN 12195-2:2001 standard? If you can’t be certain that the straps are up to the task, you simply shouldn’t use them. It’s not worth taking chances on poor-quality, unknown equipment; if you have, this could be why the straps aren’t performing correctly.

Inspect your straps for wear

All ratchet straps are designed to stretch - it’s how they’re able to secure cargo without damaging it. But, over time, repeated use will begin to wear out the webbing, stretching it out and potentially allowing the cargo to move around too much when you’re on the move.

The same goes for the ratchet mechanism. Years of exposure to moisture, road salt and UV rays can take their toll, preventing it from locking up correctly. Make sure you inspect your straps regularly for wear and tear - if any warning signs are present, it’s time to switch to new ones.

Use more straps

Your cargo might be moving around too much simply because you’re not using enough ratchet straps. Even if they’re the right type of strap and you’re otherwise using them correctly, if the cargo is able to bounce up and down, you need to add more straps.

Check your attachment points

Choosing a secure attachment point - both on your cargo and on your vehicle - is paramount where safety is concerned. It may be that your straps aren’t able to do their job properly because they’re not anchored well enough, either to your vehicle or to your cargo, so make sure you double check this.

Make sure the ratchet mechanism is locked

This is a mistake often made by beginners: always ensure that the ratchet handle is lowered and that the mechanism is locked before setting off. If you’re still able to pull webbing through the handle even when the mechanism is meant to be locked, your ratchet strap needs replacing or repairing!

Check that enough webbing has been wrapped around the handle

Straps can come loose if you’ve not wrapped enough webbing around the handle, because there simply won’t be enough resistance for the ratchet mechanism to work effectively. If you don’t have enough excess material left over after securing your load, invest in some longer straps.

Time to replace your straps?

If your ratchet straps are worn out and due for replacement, we have a vast range available for you to choose from here at Taut Strap. Explore the full lineup online and place your order today!

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