What is Safe Working Load (SWL)

Safe Working Load

What is Safe Working Load (SWL)

It is sometimes stated as the Normal Working Load (NWL) is the maximum safe force that a piece of lifting equipment, lifting device or accessory can exert to lift, suspend, or lower a given mass without fear of breaking.

In simple terms, safe working load of any lifting equipment or lifting accessories is the maximum weight of a load it can carry at any given time safely.

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In Health and Safety, it is expected that all manufacturers of a lifting equipment and lifting accessories should specify the safe working load of that equipment/accessory to prevent overload. Overload of an equipment can result to accidental release of the load or toppling of the lifting equipment which could cause serious injury or death.

To ensure safe lifting, risk assessment must be carried out for all lifting exercises. One of the things to consider during the risk assessment is the lifting machinery, lifting accessories and the load.

This consideration will guide on the choice of the best lifting machinery and accessories for a successful completion of the task.

Any machinery that do not have its safe working load conspicuously stamped on the body of the equipment should not be used for lifting based on assumption. If need arise to make use of the equipment, the manufacturer of the lifting equipment or the lifting accessories should be contacted in order to ascertain the capacity of the equipment or accessories before use.

How to calculate safe working load (SWL)

The SWL is determined by dividing the minimum breaking strength (MBS) of a component by a safety factor assigned to that type and use of equipment. The safety factor generally ranges from 4 to 6 unless a failure of the equipment could pose a risk to life; in that instance the safety factor would be a 10.

For example, if a line has an MBS of 1,000 pounds and a safety factor of 5, then the SWL would be 200 pounds. 1000 / 5 = 200. Also called working load limit (WLL).

NOTE: SWL is no longer used to identify the maximum capacity of equipment due to it being too vague and leaving it open for legal issues. The US and European standards switched to The Working Load Limit’ standard shortly after.


Further Reading

How to avoid manual lifting injuries in the workplace

How to use the load chart of your crane to determine your crane load capacity

11 Important crane safety tips

Mobile crane accident – 6 Preventable causes



  1. […] Understanding beams Pallet racking beams are often designed to allow them to cope with varying loads. In order to make this possible, you should be able to specify your needs correctly to allow for the determination of the right specification for a beam. This will be based on Safe Working Load (SWL) or Universally Distributed Load (UDL) considerations. The concept of a Safe Working Load is explained at https://hsewatch.com/safe-working-load. […]

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