Date: April 3, 2012
Editor: Lori Stiegler
Elastic (bungee) cords are common, inexpensive tools used for a variety of fastening applications. They can be safe if their use is planned and evaluated. However, a recent injury points out the hazard potential of these common tools.
Bungee cords are made of an elastic material with metal J or S shaped hooks on each end. They are convenient to use since the hooks are versatile connectors that can be easily applied using one hand. Bungee cords can also contain stored energy which can be suddenly and forcefully released if not handled carefully.
The heavy elastic cords contain tremendous force when they recoil, particularly when stretched beyond the appropriate limits. This can result in a high speed flailing hazard when the hook detaches, the attachment point fails, the cord breaks, or the hook slips out of the user's hand.
The injury in Photon Sciences involved a slipped cord and resulted in a laceration to the face that required stitches. In other facilities, the majority of bungee cord accidents have involved the eye, and include bleeding, lacerations, traumatic cataracts, and tearing or detachment to the retina. Some eye injuries are so severe that vision is lost.
In order to prevent injuries, alternative tie-downs should be considered. Ropes, ratchet style tie-downs, or cable ties may be more suitable for the application. An example of these are shown below:
If elastic cords are to be used, eye and face protection should be worn while attaching them. In addition, remember the following guidelines: 1) use extreme caution when stretching the cord, and do not extend it beyond capacity of length or load, 2) secure the ends carefully 3) keep your face and other vulnerable body parts away from the cord's rebound path 4) never use a bungee to hold a surface which reacts to wind or air movement.