People frequently ask, “Which type of chain binder should I use?”
Being an engineer gives my outlook on life an odd slant. I frequently think of things in terms of simple machines and how they can make my life better. Where am I going with this and how do simple machines relate to chain binder selection? Let me explain.

What is a chain binder?
Also known as a load binder, chain binders are tools used to tighten chain when securing a load for transport. There are two basic styles of chain binders – lever binders and ratchet binders. The method of tightening the binder is what differentiates the two.

Lever Binders
Lever BinderA lever binder is made up of a simple machine, a lever, with a tension hook on each end. The lever is used to increase the force applied to a tie down. The lever is hinged and takes up the slack by pulling on one end of the tension hook and will lock itself after a 180-degree rotation of the lever around the hinge. Some of the advantages of choosing a lever-type binder include:

  • Easy installation
  • Fewer moving parts (less maintenance)
  • Quick means to secure and release.

Ratchet Binders
CM CMG Load Binder (Angle)
A ratchet binder uses two types of simple machines and has two tension hooks on each end and handle. The handle again serves as a lever plus there is the screw thread. Having both simple machines can multiply the force manually applied to the tie down assembly.

When using a ratchet binder, the lever and screw work together and increase the force manually applied to the tie-down assembly. The result is that it takes much less pulling force on the handle to apply tension than you would need with a lever binder.

Ratchets also allow for slower, steadier loading and unloading of forces. This reduces any undue stress or strain on your body. Since ratchet binders are designed with a gear, handle, pawl and end fittings, they will not store up as much energy in the handle as a lever binder will.

Another advantage of ratchet binders is that take-up is safer. The take-up distance of a ratchet binder is typically eight to ten inches – twice that of a lever binder. While take up with a ratchet binder may take a few extra minutes, it is more controlled and ultimately a safer process.

Learn more about our domestic ratchet binders and our newest import ratchet binder.

In Conclusion
Both lever binders and ratchet binders work in a similar fashion and should be chosen based on the preference of the operator. As with any type of load securement gear, safe practices need to be followed, including:

  • Always wear gloves to maintain a good grip on the binder handle.
  • Never use cheater bars on the handle in an attempt to increase the tie down tension. Cheater bars can put excessive force on the tie down. This force can be enough to damage or even break the tie down. This energy may be further increased by shifting loads. The stored energy resulting from this force could injure you or someone nearby.
  • Ensure that the lever binder is fully locked and make sure the load doesn’t shift after it is applied.
  • When releasing lever binders, stay clear of the handle to avoid any potential kickback.
  • Specifically on ratchet binders, don’t rush the ratcheting process. Slow and steady is the best way to tension.


This article is Part 1 of a 3-part blog series that will provide an overview of safe practices for the use of material handling equipment in hazardous environments. Today, we’ll discuss the need for spark resistance.

Oil Rig

Photo Courtesy of

Across a variety of industries, ranging from upstream oil and gas and refining to agriculture and wood working, potentially flammable atmospheres can exist. These hazardous areas can present a unique set of challenges for material handling equipment and can pose a serious threat to materials, equipment and, most importantly, personnel.

In the U.S., NFPA 70, part of the National Electric Code (NEC), addresses the design and installation of electrical conductors and equipment in hazardous areas, but does not specifically provide guidelines for mechanical equipment used in these same hazardous locations.

The Importance of Spark Resistance
The NEC breaks down hazardous areas into different types of explosive atmospheres, two of which are those involving flammable gases and those involving dusts. These hazard Classes are further clarified by Group and Division as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Figure 1

It is generally understood that friction between certain materials can cause sparks sufficient enough to ignite flammable gas or dust. A cigarette lighter or an antique flintlock musket are familiar examples of this. Obviously the type and concentration/dilution of gases in an area is one element that affects potential ignition from a mechanically generated source, but other key factors could include:

  • The type materials making contact
  • The speed/pressure with which the materials come into contact
  • Corrosion on one or more of the contacting surfaces
  • Lubrication

As with our cigarette lighter and flintlock examples, it is understood that contact between steel surfaces can create sparks. Steel is commonly used in most hoists and cranes for load-bearing components such as hooks, lower blocks, load chain and trolley wheels, and therefore may not be suitable for some hazardous environments.

To address this potential risk, Columbus McKinnon uses materials such as copper, bronze, and austenitic stainless steel, which are generally considered non-sparking, for coatings or as material substitutions for enhanced spark resistance. Not only are these materials spark resistant, but they can also protect against corrosion. Since surface corrosion can increase friction between mating components, corrosion prevention is also important when using material handling products in hazardous environments.

We specially engineer a variety of products with spark-resistant components and finishes, including:

  • Solid bronze hooks, bottom blocks and trolley wheels
  • Bronze plated components
  • Stainless steel load and hand chain
  • Multi-coat epoxy finishes
  • Zinc-aluminum corrosion-resistant finish

Regardless of your industry or where you do business. CMCO has the hoists and cranes to keep your people, materials and equipment safe in hazardous areas. Learn more about our spark-resistant products:


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