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Stop the Snap: Prevent Rope Snapback

rope snapback, rigging service, hercules slr

Dwayne Fader’s been with Hercules SLR for over 30 years and recently, he decided to ditch the dark Canadian Winter for summery, sunny Florida—before he flies away, we sit down with Dwayne to ask him a few questions about rope snapback.

Rope snapback never fails to shock workers – it’s fast, forceful and damaging, yet preventable. Read on to learn more about the dangers of rope snapback, and discover our tips to prevent it.


When rope has too much tension applied to it and it breaks, it will snapback toward the direction of the pull because of kinetic energy—both wire and synthetic rope does this. Rope will always snapback, but you can’t always determine how fast it will snapback. It will always snapback to its pulling point, which is visible before or when you lift. This can cause terrible injuries, or even be fatal.

The biggest thing you can do to prevent rope snapback is to inspect your rope before, during and after use.

If you notice that there’s a lot of tension applied to the rope, you should re-rig the operation.

rope snapback, rope, hercules slr, rigging ropeHOW-TO PREVENT ROPE SNAPBACK

How does one prevent rope snapback? Unfortunately, once the rope has broke there is nearly nothing you can do – except try to get out of its way.

Prevention is the main way to prevent injuries and fatalities caused by rope snap back. No matter the strength of a rope, it undergoes wear and tear like exposure to chemicals, harsh environments, friction and bends – this causes rope fibres to degrade over time.

The best way to do this is with education and training for all workers—not just those who operate the rope. To keep rope in good working order, educate workers on:

  1. How to select the correct type of rope to use for the application/job;
  2. Proper methods to handle the rope for application and beyond;
  3. When to remove the rope from service.

To know when to remove your rope from service, you must conduct a rope inspection. To do this, inspect ropes before, during and after use. Training should also include inspection criteria for the ropes being used on the job, which can vary depending on the type of rope. This will help workers know what to look for, so they can tell if a rope should be taken out of service, or not.

It should also cover the reality of what happens when a rope snaps back, areas where it’s most likely to snapback in a dangerous way (for example, sailboats typically have marked off “snapback zones” that indicate dangerous zones to stay away from) and an emergency plan of what to do when snapback occurs.



Rope splicing is a method use to add a termination or join two ropes together without tying a knot.

Don’t tie a knot in rope, as knots reduce their safe-working load – splice rope instead to add terminations to a rope’s end. This also (typically) retains all of the rope’s strength or WLL.


End-for-ended rope is rope that’s rotated – the frequency depends on the rope and the application its used for. End-for-ending rope adds variety to the points of the rope where stress is regularly applied, which allows you to get more life from your rope.


It may sound like common sense, but it’s important to store your rope properly. Improper storage could make your rope deteriorate and fail faster.


An effective method to make people aware of how wrong snapback can go is to educate them in the areas and methods discussed above – and to show how scary the reality is.

Watch the video ‘Aircraft Carrier Cable Snap’ below for a frightening example of rope snapback. Note the crew near the back who are knocked to the ground by its force, also see the person who jumps it – TWICE:


Remember – to prevent rope snapback, ensure you’re using the right kind of rope for the move or lift you’re planning. Be sure to train workers on proper use of rope, like rope splicing, end-for-ending and safety issues.

References: Miles, A., & Prentice, G. (1986). Synthetic Line Snapback (pp. 1-9, Rep.). Naval Sea Systems Command.,,,,,