I wish that load ratings were more transparent. This Fusion Contigua carabiner is rated as having a 23kN yield strength. According to online calculators, that’s equivalent to ~5170 lbf (pound-force).
With a little research and math, it can be clear how much weight this carabiner can safely support.
Black Diamond, another climbing and sporting goods maker, discusses some of the differences between industrial and recreational carabiners, describing how recreational carabiners might be rated at their breaking strength, while industrial products might be rated with a safety factor.
When it comes to consumer and even professional tools and equipment, load ratings sometimes are not well defined, at least to the point where they are not well understood.
How much weight can a ladder hold? There are usually safety factors built into weight ratings, and there are even some safety standards that require a certain multiplication factor.
What about portable workbenches? Can their weight limits be directly compared, or do different brands rate their products with different safety factors?
When shopping for pulleys, I came across no-name products. This cheap pulley block is said to have a 400 kg (881.8 lbs) load rating, but the seller can’t answer questions about what diameter and type of rope it could be used for. They answer such a question with: This item flexible sliding pulley with heavy load capacity for numerous application.
Another product, a pulley hoist system, is said to have a 4000 lb load rating. It comes with a 50-foot polypropylene rope of uncertain size. Looking online, similar-looking 3/8″ hardware store polypropylene rope has a working load rating of 215 lbs. So that pulley hoist system’s rating is likely for just the hoist component, and not when using the included rope.
I recently bought 2 pulleys for an equipment-lifting application, and spent more than I wanted to, because I needed the greater confidence of going with a brand name whose ratings I could place greater trust in.
When a portable or stationary workbench brand says that their equipment can hold X-amount of weight, I am usually very confident that they can. Bigger brands’s lawyers often verify such claims before they can be publicly marketed.
But with other types of products, most notably the lifting and hoisting products and components I recently looked at, I had a hard time sorting out the load ratings. It’s hard to tell which load ratings are theoretical limits, working limits, or safety limits.
I can understand why more detailed information isn’t provided. Let’s say you have a work platform that’s rated 250 lbs. If a user knows the “failure” limit is higher, they might think it’s okay to exceed the working load rating.
There’s a certain responsibilities of buyers to know what they’re getting and using. Some information is readily available, such as OSHA’s ladder guidelines. But do any of the cheaper non-usual ladder brands confirm to OSHA or other safety regulations or standards?
The Loiusville Type IA ladder, shown above, has a 300 lb capacity. I would trust that working weight capacity without much second thought, because they’re a long-standing and much-respected name in the industry. The same with Werner and several other brands.
On Amazon, this Best Choice Products ladder is said to have a 330 lb capacity, and this OxGord ladder is said to have a 300 lb max load capacity. I’m not in the market for either, but both are examples of vague load ratings. Where are these and other load ratings coming from, and what standards do they meet?
I observed the same imported hoists being marketed by different brands, each with a slightly different load ratings. With some of the products, different load ratings seem attributed to differences in wire rope diameter, but with others, there was no indication as to what or why identical-looking products were rated differently depending on the seller or brand.
I learned long ago that brands can get creative with marketing claims. Once, a flashlight brand changed their marketing claims from weather-proof to water-proof, and then back to weather-proof once we started asking about IP ratings to help answer a reader’s question.
But load ratings are much more serious, with personal safety at risk.
Personally, I plan to stick with brand names I know I could trust, but in some cases that’s harder to do. What if there’s a large pricing disparity, or big difference in availability?
There are countless no-name products flooding into Amazon, with many gaining lots of positive reviews in a short amount of time. Are these brands as accountable as reputable long-standing brands, when talking about hoists? Ladders? Other industries?
It scares me when products are marketed with load ratings and there’s no clear indication as to where those load ratings come from. A lot of times, there’s nobody to even ask.
I want to see greater transparency in how these products are rated and marketed, but I unfortunately don’t see that happening, nor do I see retailers being held accountable in any way. In today’s “3rd party marketplace” environment, retailers tend to be reactive, rather than proactive. When offensive items show up in their sales catalog, action isn’t taken until news stories start shaming them into.
Looking at some of the reviews for unfamiliar-branded ladders, I see images of broken ladders and reports of falls, even when the user says they’re well under the max load ratings.
So when we see these ladders rated at 300 lbs, 330 lbs, or whatever they’re rated at, are those absolute maximum load ratings, working load ratings, or something else? Maybe they’re legit, but if so, transparency would still be nice, especially when there are industry standards that might apply.
This is just something I’ve been thinking about.