Bungee Cord Safety
It's a common, everyday device, inexpensive and easy to use.
It's used in businesses, homes, and leisure activities, but
it possesses an inherent danger, one that has caused injury,
and in some cases, permanent vision loss. What is this seemingly
harmless device with a potential to cause lasting damage in
the blink of an eye? It's a bungee cord!
Bungee cords are made of elastic material with
metal J-shaped or S-shaped hooks on each end. They're used
to tie down or secure equipment, restrain cargo, act as barriers,
hold items in place, and can be conveniently locked or fastened
to another structure. Bungee cord use is particularly attractive
since the hooks are versatile connectors that can be easily
applied with one hand. The usefulness of bungee cords is well
known, but their potential for injury is not.
One of the characteristics of a bungee cord
is its stored energy which can be suddenly released. The heavy
elastic cords from which bungees are made contain tremendous
force when they recoil, particularly when they're stretched
beyond their recommended limits. This sudden release of stored
energy results in a high speed flailing hazard when:
the hook pulls out of the user's hand as it's being stretched
the hook disengages from the attachment point
the attachment structure fails
the hook straightens out
the cord breaks
the hook detaches from the cord
In each of these situations, the free end of
the bungee cord can recoil at speeds of up to 60 miles per
hour and produce significant injury or damage upon impact.
The American Medical Association has called for warning labels
to be placed on bungee cords, including information about
the deterioration of the cords, which can cause them to snap
unexpectedly. Cracks in the cords significantly increase the
failure risks of the bungee.
The majority of bungee cord accidents involve the eye and are
becoming an increasingly common cause of both severe and penetrating
eye injuries. In one hospital study, more than half the patients
seen in the emergency room for bungee cord-sustained eye injuries
required hospitalization for treatment of their injury. Injuries
included bleeding within the eye, lacerations to the eye,
traumatic cataracts, and tearing or detachment of the retina
from the back of the eye. Most victims with damaged eyes had
a mild-to-serious loss of vision, some had no useful vision,
and some had injuries that were so severe that their eye had
to be surgically removed.
How can bungee cord injuries be prevented?
Eye doctors who treat people with eye injuries recommend replacing
bungee cords with less volatile devices. Possible alternatives
to secure equipment are ropes, buckled nylon bands or industrial
plastic shrink-wrap. If bungee cord replacement is not possible,
use appropriate, face or eye protection, even for the few
seconds it may take to attach a bungee cord.
If workers will be allowed to use bungee cords
in the course of their job, they should first receive instruction
in the safe use, and the consequences of misuse, of bungee
cords. They should be trained to use bungees with caution,
using extreme caution when stretching the cord over a load
securing hook ends carefully
never extending the cord beyond its capacity of length or
keeping the face and other vulnerable body parts away from
the cord's rebound path
never using bungee cords to hold a surface which reacts to
wind or air movement
Bungee cord safety procedures should be strictly
enforced or, in the blink of an eye, an individual could lose