Most of us have got stuck at one time or another…You might say, do I really need a recovery strop? What’s wrong with using a bit of kiwi ingenuity and making do with the chains or ropes that are in the truck already? While it’s tempting to simply hook, jerk, and pull with whatever is handy, you are relying on your past luck, and the hope that the chain links, knotted strap, or clevis with a replacement bolt won’t snap, tear, or pull apart this time.
The problem is that it can be very dangerous when wrong equipment is used, because the user doesn’t know for sure how much pressure the connecting equipment can handle. A broken piece of metal can easily become a missile – and a split second or a few inches determine whether that missile results in a near miss or serious injury. Unsafe shortcuts such as using a cut towing strap, an undersized clevis or chain, or a weak attachment point can lead to expensive repairs, injuries that last a lifetime, or worse - a person’s death. If the extraction breaks equipment, the flying debris can be just as lethal as a bullet from a gun.
For some of us, our first thought may even be, “Quick, what do I have to do to get this out of here as fast as possible, so the boss doesn’t find out?” It’s this mind-set that motivates people to grab the first thing they find without really thinking about what they are about to do, or prepared for what may soon follow…
What are Recovery Strops?
Recovery strops are designed and fabricated much differently than their counterparts used for towing and are lighter than chains and cables. Unlike tow ropes and straps, recovery strops don’t have any hardware attached to them and the material allows for stretching under tension. Recovery strops are made of nylon, which can be stretched, making them in the same manner as rubber bands or bungee cords. Recovery strops can stretch (up to a point) but return to their original shapes. When a towing vehicle pulls forward, the recovery strop continues to stretch until it builds up enough tension that it actually helps pull out a stuck vehicle.
Why use Recovery Strops?
Unlike cables and chains, you can get a running start and jerk on recovery stops. The design of the strop absorbs all the jerking motion. If you ‘snatch’ with a recovery strop, you will actually pull the vehicle out very smoothly, whereas, if you jerked on a chain or cable, you would most likely snap something, or risk a chance of whiplash from the sudden jolt. Another advantage to using a recovery strop is that the towing vehicle should never have to spin its wheels. If the towing vehicle is stopped in its tracks after repeated attempts with a tow strap, you know the vehicle you are using to pull with is not large enough to get the job done.
What to look for when purchasing your Recovery Strops…
When you purchase a recovery strop, you may want to buy one that is as long as possible. For instance, a 6 metre strop may give you enough flexibility to place the towing vehicle on more stable ground. If you don’t need 6 metres, then double it up, run the strop around, and attach both eyelets to what you are pulling. The cost of recovery equipment should not be the issue; employee safety is what is most important. If something were to go wrong, think of the expense you’d face with fines, increased insurance rates, damaged equipment, or the loss of a valued employee. In such cases, cheap equipment can cost you dearly if something goes wrong.
Keeping your Recovery Strops in Good Condition
Are you unsure or worried about the condition that your current extraction and towing equipment is in? The majority of us start worrying about what state these items are in when it’s too late and we’re already stuck. Extracting equipment is anything but routine, so owners and operators need to understand the potential repercussions of using unsafe equipment. Part of keeping your extraction equipment in a safe and usable condition is how you store and care for them while you’re not in need of them. Recovery strops are classed as the best equipment for extracting, as they stretch and allow the pulling vehicle to get enough momentum to pull out the stuck equipment.
When not to use Recovery Strops
Never use equipment unless you know it can handle the job. Always make sure your recovery strop has a tag or that you know its strength rating. Don’t use equipment if you can’t determine its rating. The equipment may need to be rated 1.5 times the weight of the stuck equipment, depending on the resistance factors. It is dangerous to use a strop that has a missing or unreadable tag. Without knowing the rated strength of the strop, it’s anyone’s guess what it can safely pull. If the numbers on the strop label are fading or wearing, write or relabel the numbers on the strap so its rating is never in doubt.
Knots significantly reduce the strength of any strop or tow rope. Strops are designed to be used flat as knots reduce the strength of the web when it is bunched together and twisted into a tight knot. All of the tension is placed on less area.
How to Clean Extraction Equipment
If you need to clean towing equipment, never use a high-pressure air hose or power washer. They will only drive the grit deeper into the material where it can abrade the inside of the webbing. Use a brush to knock off mud and dirt, but always brush with the length of the strop, not across its width. Rinse off strops with a gentle stream of water, and then let it air dry thoroughly before storing it.
How to Store Extraction Equipment
If strops get oil or fuel on them, wash them off. Make sure they are dry when you store them. Never coil up a wet strop, because mould and mildew can destroy the material. If you find serious defects, don’t stick the equipment back in the truck or shed. If it’s not up to scratch, make sure to discard or repair it so others will not be tempted to use it. Don’t leave damaged equipment laying around to be used again — the next time it may be used, could be someone’s last. The best practice is to keep your recovery strops in a container to protect it against damage from contamination and sunlight.
Develop an Inspection Extraction Equipment Checklist
You should create an inspection checklist for all recovery equipment and keep it where the equipment is stored. Remind employees they should only store equipment after they inspect it to make sure it is in good shape. Repair any damage right away or discard the equipment. When in doubt, throw it out!
When is it Time to Toss your Extraction Equipment?
Throw away strops and ropes during inspections if you find:
• Burned or melted nylon • Any cuts, tears, or holes • Torn or broken stitching • Significant abrasion
Recovery Strops are an Investment to your Business
Collect and dispose of the chains, cables, and straps you currently use for towing or extracting equipment — chances are, you don’t know the state of most of that equipment. Start from square one by purchasing what you need. Invest in recovery strops with clevises rated to take the strain. If you have the correct recovery strops, operators can ‘snatch’ stuck equipment and they won’t snap like chains, cables, or other strops tend to do, making it much safer for your staff and equipment.