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Vehicle recovery is a high risk activity. The risk can be reduced with some prior training, planning and preparation, and a disciplined approach to the recovery task.

Become familiar with the owner’s manual. Be sure to read and understand how to use your winch properly. Winches are used for pulling not for lifting. Be sure to choose the right winch for the job.

Winches are normally fitted to vehicles to provide a self-recovery capability, or to provide the capability to recover another vehicle, or to move heavy objects. A winch will be rarely suitable for recovery use without some additional equipment to compliment it. Some of the additional recovery equipment should include a snatch block, some “D” shackles, a short length of 3/8 inch chain, a tree trunk protector and a shovel.


A winch which is not used correctly is a significant safety risk. It is vitally important that the drivers of vehicles which are equipped with a winch are properly trained in its safe operation. Regular training and practice will ensure safer and more competent use during an emergency situation.


The following general safety precautions will reduce the risk:

Operator must be trained to know and understand the use of the winch and how to perform safe winching operations. Sturdy gloves must be worn to protect hands from injury, particularly when handling the wire rope.

Winches should never be submerged in water. If a winch is submerged it must be inspected and serviced by a technician immediately to prevent corrosion damage and to ensure its ongoing safety and reliability;


The following safety precautions must be implemented when preparing a recovery task:

  • Practice using the winch before you need to use it.
  • Do not rush. Take the time to plan and prepare carefully.
  • Estimate the load to be winched.
  • Use the correct equipment and do not take shortcuts.
  • Recheck the condition of the wire winch rope and any other equipment being used for serviceability and any obvious damage.
  • Ensure that the winch controls (remote pendant) are not plugged into the winch while setting up.
  • Do not exceed the rated safety capacity of the wire rope. Use a double line (2:1) recovery layout if required. If the winch rope must be anchored back onto the winch vehicle when using a 2:1 layout do not attach it to the winch frame as this will double the forces acting on the frame.   Attach it to the chassis.
  • Never use a winch as a hoist. Winches are for pulling not for lifting.
  • Do not use the winch rope as a tow rope.
  • Do not use the winch rope to secure cargo on a vehicle.
  • Do not attach a winch rope to a vehicle’s tow ball, axles or suspension.
  • Wear leather gloves when handling wire rope. Do not allow the rope to slide through the gloves .
  • Use the hook strap supplied with the winch to pull the winch rope from the drum.
  • Endeavour to set up the wire rope so that it is retrieved at a 90 degree angle to the winch drum. (straight pull) This will ensure that it is rewound onto the winch drum evenly and will avoid the damage and delays when over stacking and binding occur.
  • Do not hook the wire rope back onto itself. Use a choker chain or sling instead.
  • Remove any obstructions which may interfere with the safe winching operation.
  • Ensure that any anchors used are strong enough to hold the load .
  • Place a bag or a blanket over the winch rope to minimise cable whiplash damage if it breaks. In the absence of a bag or a blanket consider using a heavy jacket or leafy branches.
  • Only allow one person to handle the wire rope and the winch controls (remote pendant).
  • Establish no go safety zones for assistants and onlookers.