Piling Canada

Mitigating Mistakes

Second Chance Line Restraint strap dramatically reduces injury risk on jobsites
Written by Jim Timlick
January 2022

Photo courtesy of John Unger

Second Chance Line Restraint owner John Unger logged thousands of hours at the controls of various types of cranes during his career in the construction industry. However, there is one particular shift that remains indelibly etched in his mind.

Several years ago, he was operating a crane when he inadvertently pulled the wrong lever. As a result, several hundred feet of one of the cable lines and the rigging that had been tied back to the crane suddenly shot out and nearly struck one of his co-workers. Although such incidents aren’t uncommon in the industry, it stayed with Unger for a long, long time.

“It did bother me,” he said. “I just missed someone, and it was right in front of my boss who was there. It was about the worst thing other than someone getting hurt that could have happened to me. But you learn from your mistakes.”

Unger didn’t just learn from his mistake, he decided to do something to prevent it from happening to others. An experienced mechanic, he started tinkering with designs for a better tie-back system, one that could warn both the crane operator and crew members on the ground, which tied-back lines were on the verge of breaking and causing potential damage.

After conducting a couple of patent searches and finding nothing, Unger developed his own early prototype that he began using on whatever rig he was operating. He continued to tweak it, and eventually it worked so well another company asked if he could supply the device for use on their rigs.

Six years ago, he launched Second Chance Line Restraint. The Wisconsin-based company produces and distributes a one-of-a-kind restraint strap that serves as an early warning system to protect workers. It is designed to alert the operator and nearby workers of an impending break, as well as contain the lines and rigging. Comprised of a series of engineered nylon straps, it will begin tearing when tension on a line reaches 4,000 pounds, at which point it releases a small amount of pressure and the cables bang loudly on the crane’s boom. A second warning is sounded at 7,500 pounds. Best of all, the strap prevents rigging from being sent airborne. It’s manufactured by Rockford Rigging, a Roscoe, Ill.-based company, using all domestic products and features all the necessary tagging.

Unger says the biggest benefit of his device is that it dramatically reduces the chances of someone being inadvertently injured when a line snaps.

“It’s kind of a hidden mistake. Most times nobody gets hurt, but just imagine the thousands of pounds (of pressure) and how many feet of cable there are at a minimum of two pounds a foot, plus the rigging. It can shoot like a rubber band,” he said.

“The biggest thing this strap does is it creates a sense of awareness. When operators are using this, they’re thinking about potential accidents that could happen. Up until now, no one really thought about it. Usually, the operator would run out and tie it back, then go right back to work and then forget about it because they’re busy using the other line. Now they have a device made for this purpose.”

The Second Chance Line Restraint comes in two versions: a 4,000-pound option and a 10,000-pound option. It’s available in lengths up to 25 feet and retails for between US$208 and US$429. That’s a pretty small cost, Unger says, compared to the $30,000 or more it can cost a construction company in repair bills and employee wages, or insurance when there is a serious line break. It’s also a pittance compared to the potential loss of business from a dissatisfied customer.

Unger says the biggest benefit of his device is that it dramatically reduces the chances of someone being inadvertently injured when a line snaps.

“You’re going to tie off the line with something, whether it’s a $35 strap or a $200 chain. So why wouldn’t you want to tie off with something that’s going to protect you?” Unger said. “What this strap does is it gives you peace of mind, especially a company with young operators or new operators.”

So far, most of Second Chance’s customers have been pile driving, foundation and bridge construction companies. However, it’s also drawing considerable interest from the wind farm industry for the transportation of rough terrain cranes between various locations.

One of the beauties of the restraint, according to Unger, is the fact that it can be used on both large and small jobs. His list of customers includes both large, nation-wide businesses and numerous smaller, regional enterprises.

To date, virtually all of the feedback he has received from customers has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Oh, absolutely. There’s been nothing but praise. People usually say to me, ‘Why didn’t someone invent something like this a long time ago,’” Unger said, laughing.

“Usually when I get calls from new people they have a sad tone in their voice because something’s just happened. I talk them through it and determine their needs. Once they buy it, they generally become repeat customers. The great thing is (line breaks) are becoming a talked about issue now, whereas before, no one talked about it.”

Although Second Chance does most of its business in the U.S., it currently has about a half-dozen customers in Canada. It’s hoping to increase its presence in this country in the not-too-distant future.

“Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s really no different than here in the U.S. It’s the same kind of work and the same kind of safety concerns,” Unger said, adding that he has received overtures from a couple of companies in Australia as well.

One of the things Unger has found particularly encouraging is the fact that five of the companies he deals with have already made the use of the Second Chance Line Restraint mandatory on their jobsites. He would love nothing more than to see that number continue to increase.

“You just hope someone doesn’t have to get killed before that happens,” he said. Piling Canada

Category: Safety

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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.

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