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Re: Preventing Free-Spool Incidents

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It happened again to a tow operator in Connecticut where a car rolled off a flatbed carrier, struck a tow operator, and continued on to do undescribed property damage. This could have been another tow operator fatal, yet thankfully the tower wasn't pinned or totally run-over. In last weekend's CHP safety course, there were several operators who failed to check that free-spool was fully initiated (especially on carriers) and that they had a minimum of 5-wraps of cable on the spool.


Making sure free-spool is 100-percent initiated has to be confirmed BEFORE any winch scenario commences, no matter how extreme or that of a simple winch-on winch-off procedure. I wrote on this topic in an American Towman article in 2008, and now, using this incident as a topic for discussion, I'll ask, how do you owners train new tow operators in the importance of free-spool, roll-away dangers?



Randall C. Resch

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One MAJOR element of preventing free-spool instances is winch maintenance. So many towers overlook their winches untill there is an issue. It is critical in my opinion to maintain your winch and free spool linkage regularly. Loose or improperly adjusted linkage can cause the winch to not fully engage. Bad wraps and bird nested line will "jump" as it is rolled in causing shock load on the line and rigging possibly causing breakage. Proper maintenance and lubrication can prevent many of these instances. Also, when engaging the winch, it is a good practice to stop and visually check that the free spool is completely engaged before putting a load against it. If there is any signs of wear or damage to the winch OR the line, place the unit out of service untill proper repairs are made.  


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