National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: Wearing a Helmet

There is no more recognizable piece of personal protective equipment (PPE) than a firefighter’s helmet. This one critical piece of PPE protects the firefighter’s head and brain from a variety of threats. However, in certain situations, the bulkiness of the helmet can lead firefighters to remove the gear to facilitate access into tight spots, improve visibility, or eliminate an improperly worn helmet from continuously falling off of the head. Removing this vital piece of safety equipment exposes some of the most vulnerable parts of the body to irreversible harm. This week’s firefighter near miss report fully demonstrates the importance of enduring a little inconvenience or period of un-comfortableness to stay safe.

“We were toned out on a motor vehicle accident (MVA) with people trapped… I, being the smallest person on the truck, was sent through the window to assess the patient and hold c-spine traction while the rest of my crew performed extrication…the decision was made to “crimp” the hood over my head, (I was in the back seat) with a fire ax. He… hoisting the ax over his head, brought it down rapidly with one hard chop, going through the roof and embedding about 1/2 inch into my helmet…”

The urgency and hazards of an emergency lead to an environment that increases risk for responders focused on rapidly rendering aid. Any doffing of safety equipment in the hot zone leaves the rescuer at risk of injury. The best advice is to wear your safety equipment when operating in the hot zone. Once you have read the entire account (CLICK HERE), consider the following:
  1. The traditional structural firefighting helmet can be bulky in tight spaces. What alternative forms of head protection could be employed for tight quarters?
  2. When was the last time your helmet was inspected to ensure it was in good condition and NFPA 1971 compliant?
  3. List the two methods for securing the helmet to the head.
  4. Does a helmet equipped with a face shield provide adequate eye protection?
  5. Discuss the function of the following helmet components with your crew. Assess each member’s opinion about the component and how that opinion may affect the member’s safety in a hot zone. Components: Outer shell, fluorescent/retro reflective markings, impact cap, suspension system, chins strap, face shield/eye protection, nape retention device, helmet ear covers.
Firefighters are quick to doff components of our PPE ensemble when they become uncomfortable or “interfere” with doing the job. What we have to consider is whether or not our temporary personal discomfort is worth the exposure to a permanently damaging, and preventable, disability.

Has a helmet saved your life or sight? Submit your report to www.firefighternearmiss.com  today so everyone goes home tomorrow. For more on the value of near-miss reporting in the fire service, CLICK HERE.

Note: The questions posed by the reviewers are designed to generate discussion and thought in the name of promoting firefighter safety. They are not intended to pass judgment on the actions and performance of individuals in the reports.

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