Bell Stretcher Servicing
Did you know we do Bell Stretcher servicing?
Since 2007 Lyon Equipment Ltd has been the sole provider of servicing and load testing of the Bell range of mountain stretchers.
Although incredibly strong, regular use for training and on call outs will cause wear. Some of the textile and mesh parts will ultimately become damaged and need replacement. Regular inspections and repairs (just like with any other piece of hardware), will help ensure that everything works smoothly when needed.
Two options are available. Bell Mountain stretcher general servicing which includes basic repairs and parts replacement, and Bell Mountain stretcher load testing where a thorough examination is carried out followed by application of a proof load.
Records of all service work and test certificates are supplied to customers with copies held by Lyon Equipment Ltd.
Mountain Rescue teams in England and Wales wishing to have work done should speak to the MREW equipment officer for approval before contacting Lyon Equipment Ltd and arranging delivery of their Bell Mountain stretchers.
Other organisations should contact Lyon directly on +44 (0)1539 626251 to discuss their Bell stretcher servicing and load testing needs.
Having done a significant amount of servicing and proof loading testing of Bell stretchers (which have been used and abused in all terrains) we have a number of observations that we feel are worth passing on.
Unlike most other equipment used by teams the Bell stretcher does not have to be replaced automatically after ten years!
However, if your team is still using an original blue painted mild steel framed Mk 1 then it is time for a change. Repainting the outside of the frame will make the stretcher look smart but it will not make it any stronger. These frames can be subject to internal corrosion from either water ingress or condensation. As all Mk1's are a good few years old the effects of such corrosion could by now be quite significant.
Bell Stretchers will no longer approve load testing of original Mk1's and without a valid load test certificate rescue teams should not be using them.
If your Bell stretcher has a stainless steel frame with no built-in lift rings at the corners it is probably a Mk2, this can usually be confirmed by looking at the serial number which is a seven digit code beginning with the number 2. As of 1st January 2016 Mountain Rescue England and Wales (MREW), after discussion with the original manufacturer, no longer fund the ongoing service and load test of the Mk2 stretcher. Teams with such stretchers can continue to use them and will be supported with a repairs and parts service until the individual stretchers load test certificate expires. At that point the stretcher should be retired.
Teams wishing to replace their Mk2 with a new Bell stretcher should contact the Mountain Rescue England and Wales Equipment Officer for information.
Bell Mk3, TANGENT, TANGENT SPLIT MR and LYON MREW Bell stretchers continue to be fully supported with inspection, servicing, repairs and load testing.
The Bell frame design is immensely strong and allows the stretcher to be used as a working platform. Damage is generally caused by dropping a stretcher half from the roof of a vehicle onto the ground or by running over it. Frames showing any noticeable bend, deformation or damage of any individual tube should be withdrawn from service and returned for an inspection and load test. Some repairs are possible but serious deformation will usually result in the stretcher being scrapped.
When the stretcher is assembled the two halves should be neatly aligned at the joint with no significant step. Over time, or after large forces have been applied some movement can occur at the joint. This can be caused by damage to the locking pins, ovality of the pin holes or bending of the connecting tabs on each centre bar.
The step formed can significantly accelerate wear of the bottom 'runner', especially on the TANGENT stretchers where the material is a thinner section to start with.
If your team does a lot of stretcher sledging during evacuations then this is an area you should keep an eye on. Excessive misalignment, thinning of the material, deformation or splitting at the corners of the runner will require attention to the runner and the joint.
As the pattern of use changes and more teams sledge we have seen an increase in the wear and damage to runners. The thickness of box section tube used for the frames was always a compromise between strength, weight and longevity.
Wear occurs not on the centre face of the box as expected but just in from the corners. Why? Well the face of the box flexes inwards slightly when a load is applied. The stiffened corners cannot flex as much and so take the brunt of the contact. Ultimately if not attended to the material will fail and the centre face becomes detached, leaving a weak U section with razor sharp edges.
Comment from users over the years saw the option of a line of sacrificial weld of a harder material on the runner face. This does slow down wear but will not eliminate the problem.
Team equipment inspectors should regularly check runner lower faces for signs of 'dishing', splitting or flex when pressure is applied with the ball of the thumb.
If any of the above are noted the stretcher should be withdrawn from service and sent for inspection and possible repair.
The options for repair depend on the severity of damage and whether the user fits accessories to the stretcher.
-For those who use winter snow skids or wheels which attach directly to the runner with clamps or where the box section has split over a wide area the complete bottom runner box sections are replaced with thicker box section of the same external size.
-For those who do not use accessories the existing runner is reinforced with a 'sacrificial' strip of stainless steel with addition weld facing applied.