Gloves…Body Armor…Why Not Helmets?


I recently had the opportunity to try the B2 EMT Paramedic Helmet, which is designed for everyday EMS use. I wore it while teaching the day long NAEMT EMS Safety Course and while working at a large outdoor music festival. I found the helmet was easy to wear and did not impair teaching or patient care.

I got the idea for wearing a helmet when teaching the NAEMT Safety Course. In the opening module two ambulance crashes from my area are discussed. One paramedic was killed and another has permanent brain damage. Both were unrestrained in the back of an ambulance on routine calls, and both were ejected from the patient compartment. Several crash test videos follow that show devastating head injuries. Even a sudden stop or turn in the ambulance or flying equipment bring the risk of a concussion, which can require time off work for recovery.

I reached out to Bell, and they were kind enough to send me a helmet to try with my class. There is an adjustable face shield, which is useful for extrication and strikes to the face, but does not replace safety glasses for eye protection from secretions. There are loops around the ears for stethoscopes, and the strap can be easily released with one hand.

I wore the helmet when I worked two days at an outdoor music festival. I worked on a Gator with a stretcher secured to the back, and transported patients over hills and gravel, and no seatbelts. I felt more at risk of a head injury than the helmeted police officers on bicycles and was glad I had it. While I got some funny looks and comments, most of the people I talked to nodded their heads in agreement when I explained why I was wearing one.  I was able to keep it on at all points during patient care, including leaning over a patient in an ambulance to start and IV. I noticed I was wearing it, but did not have any head or neck pain after my 12 hour shifts.

I also wore the helmet during my ACLS megacode. It was on a high fidelity simulator, and I performed CPR, started an IV, ventilated and intubated. I actually forgot I was wearing it.

For the Safety Course I wore the helmet when I walked in the room, and wore it for most of the day. The students chuckled, and most nodded in agreement when I asked if they thought it looked ridiculous. Then I asked about wearing gloves during patient care, which is something most services require, but was not common 30 years ago. The first few people who did were probably made fun of, even on bloody trauma patients.

I polled the class about what they thought about EMS providers wearing body armor, which now has reached mainstream. I pointed out that the risk of being in a crash was much higher than being shot, and that the helmet also provides protection from blunt trauma. I also showed a picture of flight paramedics wearing helmets and how they pull off looking cool with one, and if ground EMS crews are any less safe transporting patients than in helicopters.

The B2 Paramedic Helmet weighs is 1.5 inches thick and weighs 1.5 pounds and built to a motor vehicle safety standard. Features include:

  • 3mm injection molded polycarbonate visor
  • Curved visor with nose cutout that can accommodate respirators
  • Lightweight composite carbon/Kevlar shell
  • Liner technology—Multi-density liner design from the advanced F1 Racing Helmet
  • Removable/replaceable fit pad system
  • 3M reflective tape for enhanced visibility
  • Quick-release padded chin strap with steel buckle
  • Retention system allows use of stethoscope or communications

The helmet comes in three sizes, and comes with padding that can be inserted. I used the medium size padding, and that fit most of my students when I passed it around the room. We are going to use it during lab scenarios and during the extrication drill.

The next time you put on body armor before starting your shift or putting gloves on before touching your next patient, think about how devastating a head injury would be, whether from an assault or a crash, and think about whether we should add helmets to daily practice.

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Comments

  1. Bob, I am a little surprised the Bell helmet is still available. It was probably 5 years ago that there was a marketing push around helmets but I don’t recall there being much interest in the market. Your real-world use testing is good to hear.

    I think reducing the thickness, without big compromises to protection could impact adoption and purchasing.

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