(A Guide for Arena Riggers)
Ok, you’ve decided that you’re going to take this seriously and you need to tool up. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen riggers show up on the call empty handed. If you plan on working at height, you’ll need to purchase an OSHA approved full body harness. The days of riggers climbing scaff in sit harnesses, or strolling out onto the beam with no harness, are gone. There are lots of options, you will find most guys using Petzl or Yates harnesses, these are great brands and trusted for a reason but, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to spend $400 on a harness and another $180 on a double lanyard.If you look around at PK Safety you will find an assortment of OSHA compliant full body harnesses at reasonable prices. Personally, I prefer a harness with central and sternal D rings as well as the mandatory dorsal attachment, so that I can comfortably perform a rescue.
Next on your list is a rope, A rigger without a rope is, well as my mentor Jimmy Mullen would say “what the hell good are you without a rope, you may as well go downstairs and push boxes”. As far as I’m concerned there are only a couple of options, 5/8″(16mm) solid braid multifilament polypropelene or a 5/8″ (16mm) dynamic line, I prefer the latter. As far as length, my standard answer is “20′(7 meters)longer than the roof is tall”, this works as a general rule but there are rooms where a longer rope is necessary if you are running lines to the catwalks. Some guys will only need one rope but a good rigger is worth their weight in gold and you should plan on getting around. You can get a decent deal on a 600′ (183 meter) spool of rope and cut from that as you start working in different rooms. I like All Line Inc as a supplier.
I see guys pulling points with smaller diameter lines, usually because they prefer to pull points through a small wheel and it won’t accommodate the larger line. These people are making it harder on themselves. By the time your small diameter line passes over the small diameter pulley the added tension you’re creating negates the advantage of the wheel, and the thin diameter line is not easy to grip or friendly on your hands. For the most part, if you’re not dealing with extreme heights or weights, the easiest way to pull is hand over hand, from the beam. When you are in a situation that calls for pulling through a wheel you should use the appropriate tools. Pigeon Mountain Inc has a wide selection of steel pulleys, CMI also has an assortment of steel pulleys intended for use with 5/8″ (16mm) rope, they also make a rope grab of the appropriate size. I’m also a big fan of the Gibbs ascender in a 5/8″ (16mm) as a rope grab. Put these together with a steel rescue carabiner, a small steel carabiner and a couple RSI omnislings and you have a solid set up for hauling points to the ceiling. I see the Petzl Protraxion in use a lot, I like it in ways but, for me, as stated above, I don’t like to use line within the recommended range for this device, so it doesn’t fit my needs. If you do use the Protraxion you should always use a carabiner in the bottom and top attachment points to prevent unwanted opening.
I also feel a drawstring bag can be very useful for carrying a radio, bottle of water, small tools or anything else you need and don’t want to drop. There are lots of companies that make chalk bags which is a common preference, I prefer the Yates small bolt and tool bag. You will also need some head protection, personally I prefer to use a climbing helmet in the air, and a hardhat on the ground. Whatever your choice make sure its ANSI Z89.1 compliant, most climbing helmets are not.
For me these basic tools cover most arena rigging needs in the air, as you progress in your work you will acquire whatever other odds and ends you find you’ll need to fill out your kit. I’m leaving gloves out of this as I feel it’s a personal choice, I generally don’t wear gloves and if I do I prefer fingerless gloves for handling shackle pins.
If you want to complete your kit you will need a couple of tools to work on the ground. A laser level is a key tool in leading a team though the roof, there are a lot of options and I think I’ve tried them all. Of the easily available choices, I like the Bosch GPL3, the PLS3 is a good deal brighter and I do own one and like it but I find that they don’t hold up to the rigors we put them through. A good ground person will also carry a tape measure on their belt. A distometer is handy to have but certainly not essential for most, in my opinion.
So what’s in your kit….