Whether you're setting cabinets in place or securing machinery to a truck bed, you need to know how to use slings and wire rope to do so safely.

Having a load come loose can cost you a finger, a hand, or even your life. Think of the loads you might secure for travel via an overhead crane, lift truck, or flatbed. All of these loads can undergo significant damage or cause extensive damage if you don't secure them properly.

You can use slings in three basic configurations, or hitches: choker, basket, or vertical. The choker is ideal for lifting machine shafts, bundles of conduit, or other cylindrical items that need extra sling adhesion and can take the extra force generated by their own weight. The basket sling requires an extra hook while it helps cradle, rather than pinch, the load. The vertical sling allows you to lift a load that has a lifting hook.

You make your hitch with a sling. Always inspect the seam of each eye, as well as the sling body, prior to using any sling. You have four basic types of slings available to you: straight eye, reverse eye, endless, and metal triangle.

Let's first look at the straight eye, also called eye-and-eye. It's a general-purpose sling with a high degree of versatility. You can use it for any of the three hitch configurations, but it's not the best choice for the vertical hitch.

The reverse eye, like the straight eye, is a versatile, general-purpose sling. The reverse eyes of this sling make it ideal for the choker hitch. Like the straight eye, however, it's not the sling of choice for the vertical hitch.

If you got rid of the eyes, you'd have an endless sling. It can give you higher strength than the straight or reverse eye, but it's not as easy to make a secure hitch with it. This sling allows you to spread localized wear spots along its length, which can result in a longer sling life. However, this practice is easy to abuse: So, be sure to replace a worn sling rather than take a chance on an accident.

You can overcome the wear issue by using a metal triangle, or plate hardware sling. There are two variations of this. The first variation uses a metal triangle on one end only. That sling works well in a choker hitch that you would use with a lifting hook. Add a metal triangle to the other end, and you have an ideal sling for a basket hitch. But, you can't use it in a choke hitch.

Slings come in a wide range of lifting capacities, weaves, and materials. You need to know the rated lifting capacity of your particular sling, and how to inspect it for wear. To know if your sling can lift a given load, you must also know the maximum lifting angle the sling will experience for that lift. The lifting capacity decreases as the included angle increases. Your slings should come with charts that show their lifting capacity for each angle. These same factors apply when you use a sling to hold a load in place.