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Pulley blocks are one of the simplest and oldest forms of lifting machine. They are widely used
in a variety of lifting and pulling applications where, a) the direction of the line pull needs to be
changed and b) where higher loads than the WLL of the winch, or other pulling/lifting force
provider, are to be lifted or pulled. A close look at pulley blocks forms an extension to our
study of mechanics and will help us to understand the effects of MA, VR and Efficiency.

The simplest form of pulley block is the gin block to BS 1692. Gin blocks are intended for use
in simple manual lifting operations where a light load can be easily raised by a man pulling on a
rope with no gain of mechanical advantage. Pulley blocks intended for use with winches and
jaw winches are covered by clause 5.6 of BS EN 13157 – Cranes – Safety – Hand Powered
lifting equipment.

When we considered pulley blocks in unit 3.3 we assumed a perfect pulley system with no
frictional losses, the result being an Efficiency of 100%, but this is not possible. There is in fact
a loss of Effort, due to Friction at each sheave, and this amounts to between 5% and 8% and is

So let us consider the effect of friction on a single sheave pulley block. We will assume our
pulley block is in perfect working order and that the frictional loss at the sheave is a maximum
of 8%. (See Figure 1)



Figure 1

Here the block simply allows a change in direction of the effort applied, so that a downward
effort acts to raise the load. No Mechanical Advantage is gained.

If the load is 1t, then the effort required to lift the load will need to be greater than 1t + 8%
i.e. 1.08t. As both the load and the effort act on the sheave the total load on the suspension
eye will be 2.08t, i.e. the sum of the Effort, the Load Lifted and Friction.
Let us now consider what happens when we have two single sheave pulley blocks, as in Figure
2. Again we will assume a maximum frictional loss per sheave of 8% and a load of 1t.

training\3-4u 1

4808t 2. Figure 3 shows the effect of cumulative friction on various pulley block arrangements and how this relates to the Mechanical Advantage.082 X That is 1.08 And that 1.08X = 1.561t This means that to lift 1t with a two-sheave pulley block arrangement an effort of 0. the load lifted and friction.08 x 0.08 x 0. The force in the fall which passes to the top sheave will then be X + 8%.08X 1.5t as may have been thought by the casual observer. training\3-4u 2 .08 x 1.561t being the sum of the effort. let us call the force in the fall connecting the becket and the bottom sheave X.561t is required and NOT 0.082X Figure 2 The load is held by two parts of rope. X 1. We can therefore see that: X + ( X + 8%) = 1t or X + 1.4808 = 0.4808 = 0.5192t We can also see that the effort will be 1. The total load on the head fitting will be 1.08X = 1t 1 Therefore X = = 0.

The load taken by each fall of rope can be assumed to be equal to the safe working load of the equipment divided by the number of falls and taking account of the bending losses.25t load 1. It is therefore assumed that there is a 10% cumulative loss due to bending and friction in respect of each sheave in the pulley block arrangement.Head fitting 2.388t 1.9) p are given in table 1 training\3-4u 3 .561t.561t 1.9) p Where WLL = Working load limit single part of rope P = Number of falls of rope which carry the load Values for P (0.388t 0.08t 1.302t 0. There is a further consideration.56t 0. SWL This can be expressed in the equation WLL = P (0. Care must therefore be exercised in the selection of a suitable rope for use with a pulley block system.302 1.25t Friction = 8% per sheave 1t 1t 1t 1t 1t Two Double Two Treble Single Singles Single Doubles Double Figure 3 From the above we can see the need to take friction into account when designing or selecting suspension points for multi-sheave arrangements. that of the `loss of strength' in the rope due to bending. ROPE SELECTION From the above we can see that the resultant force increases in each fall of rope.08t 0. For instance with an arrangement having two single sheaves to lift 1t we need a lifting point with a SWL greater than 1.

35 8 3.90 2 1. The SWL marked on the blocks is based on the number of falls e.19 4 2.19 7 3. using up to 1 tonne WLL rope with a factor of safety of 8.9) p (from table) = 2. not less than one-third the rope diameter deep with a minimum radius of 0.6 x diameter of the rope. of falls = 5 P (0.9) p 1 0. We will then consider BS EN 13157. A snatch block is a form of single sheave block that has a gate opening to allow the block to be fitted onto a running rope system without the need for reeving the rope through the block. All of these standards cover single sheave. British Standard BS 4344 (Withdrawn) Natural and Synthetic Fibre Pulley Blocks This standard covered pulley blocks for natural and synthetic fibre ropes.g.62 3 2. of falls of rope which carry the load P (0. a single sheave block (used as a bottom block) will have two falls. multi-sheave and snatch blocks. The sheave must have a diameter at the bottom of the groove of not less than 5 x the rope diameter. The axle pin must be positively secured against rotation by means that permits the pin to be withdrawn for examination. training\3-4u 4 .95 1 Therefore WLL = = 0.95 PULLEY BLOCKS Until the publication of BS EN 13157 in 2004 there were three British Standards covering pulley blocks for various applications. The boss width must be at least 2mm larger than the sheave. No.34t 2. It must have a smooth groove. There must be a lubrication point in the pulley block unless it is permanently lubricated.62 5 2.95 6 3. What is the minimum WLL of rope we can use? Known information is No. As a vast number of blocks to the old British Standards remain in service we will briefly consider the main two of these standards. reeved for up to 7 tonnes lifting capacity.44 Table 1 Example 1 If we have a double and treble sheave pulley block arrangement and require a safe working load of 1t.

5m/s. To avoid overheating (another effect of friction) and. BS EN 13157. The pitch circle diameter of the centre line of the rope must be at least 12 times the rope diameter. electrostatic build-up.5 times the rope diameter. A sheave that is too wide or too narrow will cause distortion of the cross section of the rope thereby reducing its working life. in the case of man-made fibre ropes. The angle of the groove must be between 45º and 55º. the radius of the groove between d/2 + 5% and d/2 + 10% and the depth of the groove must be at least 1. The sheave diameter at the bottom of the groove should be not less than 12 x the rope diameter.5 m/s. with a boss width at least 1. The standard included a table of bearing pressures for various diameters of steel axle pins in phosphorous bronze bearings. The sheave form is as shown in Figure 4.05 x radius of rope Figure 4 Axle pins must be positively secured against rotation and lateral movement by means that permit the pin to be withdrawn for inspection. For fibre ropes the sheave must be radiused to at least 0. The maximum permitted rope speed with this type of block is 0.5 times the rope diameter. In the case of blocks for use with wire rope. Minimum D Maximum 1.The rope needs to be supported for approximately one third of its circumference. Clause 5. the requirements for the sheave are similar to those of BS 4018. training\3-4u 5 .5 D Radius of groove a minimum of 1. These bearing pressures must not be exceeded or the sheave is liable to collapse. The breaking load of the becket must be at least equivalent to the breaking load of the rope on which the block design is based.6mm larger than the sheave width. There must be a rope guide to ensure that slack rope remains located. the maximum permitted rope speed with this type of block is 0.6 – Pulley blocks and deflection pulleys This standard requires a factor of safety of at least 4:1. British Standard BS 4018 (Withdrawn) Wire Rope Pulley Blocks up to 25 tonne capacity This standard covered pulley blocks with sheaves up to 300mm bottom of groove diameter.

MARKING BS EN 13157 requires that all pulley blocks and deflection pulleys are fitted with a permanent identification plate which gives the following information: a) Name and address of the manufacturer b) Series type or designation c) Serial number (identification mark?) d) Rated capacity e) Year of manufacture f) Dimensions and quality of rope (for which the block is intended?) g) Minimum breaking force of the rope(?) MANUFACTURER'S TESTS Type Tests To prove the design and performance of pulley blocks prior to series manufacture. It should be noted that BS EN 13157 shows a swivel eye in the illustration of a pulley block but only mentions hooks in the text. Manufacturing Tests and Examination Each block must be subject to a dynamic test of 1. This must be remembered when we discuss the examination of pulley blocks. attachment device and suitability for use in the specified temperature range b) Static test of 1. periodic examination requirements and marking.5 times the rated capacity for blocks less than 20t WLL and 1. training\3-4u 6 . a functional test of the rope guide and a visual examination on completion of manufacture and subject to a visual examination.25 the rated capacity for blocks with a WLL of 20t or more c) Breakage test for blocks designed for a rated capacity of less than 5t d) Functional test to ensure correct operation of rope guide e) Measurement of sheaves f) Visual examination of instructions. HEAD AND LOAD SUSPENSION FITTINGS Pulley blocks are available with swivel eye or hook fittings.Pulley blocks to this standard must be capable of use at ambient temperatures in the range -10ºC to + 50ºC. Note: The testing requirement in BS EN 13157 is considerably lower than previous.1 times the rated capacity. BS EN 13157 requires the manufacturer to make certain tests as follows: a) Calculation of mechanical strength. good practice and standards called for as shown in table 2. legislation. Unfortunately this standard is poorly written but it can be assumed from this that it is intended to cover both types of head fitting.

Type of Block Proof Load Applied to Block Proof Load Applied to Becket Single sheave block and snatch Four times the safe working load One third of the proof load blocks applied to the block Single sheave block (used as a Twice the safe working load of One third of the proof load bottom block with load attached the head fitting applied to the block to bottom hook) Multiple sheave block with safe Twice the safe working load (Any double block) working load up to and including One quarter of the proof load 20 tons applied to the block Multiple sheave block with safe 20 tons in excess of the safe (Any treble block) working load over 20 tons up to working load One sixth of the proof load and including 40 tons applied to the block Multiple sheave block with safe One and a half times the safe (Any four-fold block) working load over 40 tons working load One eighth of the proof load applied to the block (Any five-fold block) One tenth of the proof load applied to the block (Any six-fold block) One twelfth of the proof load applied to the block (Any seven-fold block) One fourteenth of the proof load applied to the block (Any eight-fold block) One sixteenth of the proof load applied to the block Table 2 A word of explanation is necessary regarding the proof load as applied to both single sheave blocks and snatch blocks in the above table. crane block) lifts only its SWL and can be tested to twice its marked SWL. The normal load on the head at maximum loading is therefore two times the marked SWL. Therefore.e. We have previously noted that how the load on the head fitting is two times the load being lifted plus friction. However the fitting of a SINGLE BOTTOM BLOCK (i. training\3-4u 7 . The friction is generated by the action of the effort and load and need not be considered when proof testing as the proof load will generate its own friction. If a proof load of twice the SWL were applied we would only be loading the block to its normal load. in order to apply a proof load of 200% it is necessary to apply a load of 4 times the marked SWL.

bent or otherwise defective. In the case of self oiling sheaves the leathers must be renewed. maximum 8% reduction in diameter 3) Wear/fracture in shank of eye. Ensure oil or grease ways in pin and bush. score should be checked using a suitable gauge. It is therefore necessary to establish the standard to which the block has been manufactured and/or obtain the original manufacturer's instructions to ensure that the correct test load is applied. chafed edges to side plates. i. Fracture leading from centre pin hole 6) Worn/distorted/fractured centre pin. Nothing will be achieved by a load test during the examination as the strength is known prior to the examination. bush slack in sheave.5mm for each 25mm of pin diameter. sheave and shell are clear. Also check shank for distortion and crosshead hole for wear.EXAMINATION Pulley blocks fall under the heading of 'lifting equipment' in modern legislation and therefore should be examined by a competent person at periods not exceeding twelve months. Where the eye of a block has been secured by welding around the retaining collar or nut. If roller bearings are fitted these should be checked for wear. However if a repair has been made to a load bearing part it will be necessary to load test the block in accordance with its initial verification by the manufacturer. maximum wear 1. In particular the following should be checked (it may be necessary to strip down the block to make the examination): 1) Ensure that the marking is clear and legible 2) Wear/fracture in eye of block. freedom of movement etc 8) Sheave chipped/cracked/worn.e. 6% of pin diameter 7) Worn/distorted/fractured bush. Particular attention must be paid to rope imprint which can damage the rope 9) Check becket for wear or distortion. the welding should carefully be removed and the eye extracted for closer examination 4) Distortion or torn side straps/bindings. All in- service pulley blocks should be carefully visually examined.5mm to 25mm (6%) of shank diameter. wear in the shank of eye may be assessed by moving the collar. Distorted or worn side plates. training\3-4u 8 . maximum wear 1. Should it be suspected that the shank is excessively worn.