Skate blocks are about the most amazing and versatile system known to rigging. Why? Low overhead. Low risk. High functionality. Super bomber! The question that most people have is, “Is it complicated?” No… Not at all. You can’t over tension this system. Take a look.
Transcription from Conversations in Rigging Hi, I'm Richard Delaney from Rope Lab in the Blue Mountains of Australia, and I'm working with the rigging lab at Rescue Response Gear.
Today, we want to have a look at skate blocks. Skate blocks is something that we’ve taught for many years, and often struggled with presenting various components of them to different teams, particularly small teams working in remote areas. By that, I’m thinking about communications tower workers and crane workers who are often just the crane operator and a dogman who may be caught in this situation where they have to effect a rescue from the jib.
Different times when we’ve taught skate block rescues, we’ve tried different techniques introducing fore and aft belays to protect the system in case we have a failure of the main line. But the question, which is quite valid, that’s come back to us is, “That’s great, but it’s complicated and it needs a team of more than what we often have.” So, we want to introduce the mirrored skate block. Again, it’s not new, but it’s something we need to discuss and get out there into wider use a bit more.
The skate block, you’re probably familiar with its operation, but the great thing about it is we have our load applied to this pulley and it’s the weight of the load, which is tensioning the system. And then when we introduce slack on a belay device down the bottom at a bottom anchor, it runs through this pulley and the load travels down this skate block line, effectively working like a track line. The great thing with this skate block is we can’t over tension the system because it’s limited by the load that we’re applying. Rather than having a single skate block line with our load suspended from a single pulley, we’re going to completely duplicate the system so we have two identical systems.
We have our worker, in this case who needs to be lowered to the ground. They’ve got their twin positioning lanyards, and we’ve attached those directly into the two systems. It’s convenient in this case that we also have each of those lanyards attached to different points on the harness. The magic of this system is what we’ve got down the bottom, which is two lowering devices which can be operated by a single operator. So the great thing with this system is if we have a pair of workers and one worker at the top with a non urgent evacuation from that structure, we can rig this system up, I can leave this coworker in place, I can go to the bottom and then complete the safe lower on a completely redundant system.
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