Unique environments – How weak should the weak link be?

Mr Marty Nichols1

1NSW Ambulance, Helicopter Operations, Bankstown Aerodrome, Australia


In 2017 NSW Ambulance commenced a new statewide aviation contract. As part of this process a standardised weak-link mechanism was used throughout the state between the attachement point of the winch stretcher and the tag line. When issues with the chosen weak link were identified NSW Ambulance made use of this opportunity to undertake research into the ideal strength for a tagline weak link. This included which knot should be used when tieing the weaklink.


A process was undertaken to determine the force that tag line attendants (paramedics) applied to the tag line during simulated stretcher winches.
A variety of cordage and knots where measured in a professional testing facility to identify the failure point/load.
The results of the above tests where combined to identify the ideal weak link ‘strength’ required for HEMS operations in NSW.

Presentation will include a walk throughh of this process, the results of the testing and outline the factors that were included in the final decision of the selected weak link ‘strength’.

This will be of interest to any attendees who undertake winching operations as part of a HEMS service.


Marty is a career paramedic who has worked for NSW Ambulance for 20 years. The last 10 years has seen Marty work full time in HEMS. Currently a Critical Care Paramedic Educator at the Aeromedical Crewing Excellence Training Centre (ACE-TC), Marty instructs in all areas of paramedic HEMS practice, including; clinical and critical care, remote and austere access and patent care, HUET & the down-the-wire rescue crewman role.

Marty is an Adjunct Lecturer at Charles Sturt University, and Adjunct Clinical Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney and is a Director for the Australasian College of Paramedicine.

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