To Tag Line or Not To Tag Line?

A Q&A on Tag Lines – Part 1

Under certain U.S. Federal and state OSHA regulations failure to use a tag line on a freely suspended load could be a violation of law. Regulations where tag lines are mentioned include:

  • tagline-header-small-part1General Industry OSHA §1910.180(h)(3)(xvi)  states “…A tag or restraint line shall be used when the rotation of the load is hazardous.”
  • Construction OSHA §1926.1417(w) says “A tag or restraint line must be used if necessary to prevent rotation of the load that would be hazardous.”
  • Hoisting Personnel OSHA §1926.1431(k)(5) regulates “tag lines must be used when necessary to control the platform.”

So now we know what the letter of the law says, over the next several weeks we are going to look at some of the many other questions that get asked about tag lines and talk about some best practices for use. This week we are going to start with some basic information and progress from there:

What is a tag line?

According to OSHA §1926.1401 a tag line “means a rope (usually fiber) attached to a lifted load for purposes of controlling load spinning and pendular motions or used to stabilize a bucket or magnet during material handling operations.”

When should they be used?

Essentially tag lines should be used to help stabilize a load while enabling personnel to maintain a safe distance from the load. They are recommended in most situations to prevent damage to either the load, surrounding equipment and/or personnel. Use a tag line when any of the following occur:

  • The load suspended by the crane is likely to swing back and forth (due to wind or other external factors) creating a control hazard.
  • The movement or rotation of the load causes a hazardous condition.
  • To help orient a load for proper placement or connection upon landing.

Is there a time when tag lines should not be used?

Tag lines should NOT be used if they create a safety hazard. Instances such as:

  • Not having enough clearance for the tag line handler to keep out of the fall zone.
  • They would cause the handler to be placed near a pinch point.
  • There is not a clear travel path for the handler to be able to walk through without trip hazards or without causing snagging hazards.
  • When load rotation is excessive and cannot be controlled via taglines.

Before making the determination not to use a tag line, talk it through with the lifting team. If a tag line is necessary for positioning or load control, but it is going to create more of a safety hazard then consider other alternatives, such as push/pull poles or some other type of control (at safe height and distance).

How effective are tag lines?

tagline-useFirst and foremost, tag lines only work in tension. With a single tag line, you can only pull a load towards you or keep a load from moving away. For this reason to help control a load against rotation or swinging, it may be necessary to use more than one tag line and more than one handler.

Tag lines provide the most effective load control when they are at a near horizontal level, at waist or shoulder height of the tag line handler. The higher the load, and more vertical the tag line, the less effective it will be helping provide load control. At some point if the rope is not of sufficient length, the tag line handler will actually start to pull down on the load instead of controlling the load. When this happens the tag line is no longer effective and the handler is most likely in the fall zone as well.

How many tag lines are needed?

There is no right or wrong answer here. You only need as many tag lines as necessary to control, position, steady, or receive a load. It might be that one is sufficient; it might be that two or three will do the trick; it might be that you are going to need four. How many are needed, where they should be placed and their purpose should be discussed as part of planning the lift.

When and where should tag lines be attached?

Tag lines should always be attached prior to lifting the load. They are normally attached either around the object entirely, through a rigging eye, or possibly even to the rigging itself. The optimal placement should provide for the maximum amount of control during hoisting, traveling and placement, while being in an place where they can be easily removed. Tag lines should not be attached to an area that could open, detach, spread apart, or cause the device to become unloaded. Acceptable locations and attachment points should be discussed as part of planning the lift.

How should tag lines be attached?

It truly depends on the application. Some tag lines may be fashioned with quick attach clips/snap hooks or they can be tied on with different rigging knots, such as two half hitches or a bowline. When proper rigging knots or attachments aren’t used there are two scenarios that usually happen:

  • The handler will end up holding the tag line with nothing attached to it when the knot comes undone (you know you’ve seen it).
  • Knot after knot is tied to “secure” the tag line, and when it is time to release it the tag line has to be cut—now the 20’ tag line is only 18’ for the next use.


What’s left to talk about?

Now that we’ve discussed some of the basics of tag line and their application, the next two weeks will focus on questions such as:

  • What should the handler know?
  • What should tag lines be made of?
  • How long should tag lines be?
  • What should be done with any extra length?
  • How do you retrieve a tag line?
  • Are there alternatives to tag lines?

If you have a another question about a tag line that you’d like to see answered, let us know by commenting or email us. Remember that Safety through Education is more than just our motto, it is our guiding principle. We provide superior training and consulting services to ensure safety and create reliability within the material handling industry. Have a question regarding our services or if you’d like a quote, please reach out to us.

2 Responses to “To Tag Line or Not To Tag Line?”

  1. Lewis Williams says:

    1926.1407 (b) 2 and 1408 (b) 2 Tag line must be non-conductive. Non- conductive is polypropylene (ski rope) because it is hydrophobic. All other lines are conductive because they adsorb water. There are commercial taglines that are also available.

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