Blog - The Raven Speaks

When Rescue Helmets Are Wrong

A great helmet at the wrong time ... is the wrong helmet.  We spoke with Instructor Dan Kirvan to learn more about the unique purposes featured in the different helmets on the market.


The topic of helmets comes up in every type of course that we teach, with the main question being “Can I also use this helmet for another discipline?”  

Let's look first of all at design, and what each type of helmet is trying to protect you from.


High Angle/Work At Height Specific Helmets 

Helmets for working at height generally have an internal basket and sit higher on your head.  These are designed to protect against high impact from the top, and have a high resistance to penetration.  They are generally adjustable and come with a variety of options allow more ventilation for summer, and added insulation layers for winter.  Some, like the Kask Super Plasma, are also equipped with vents that keep you cool while simultaneously keeping out debris and water.

Question: What about my rock climbing helmet? Can I wear that when I work at height?

The biggest difference between your climbing helmet and a helmet designed for working at height in an industrial or emergency response setting is its certification rating.  Your workplace PPE requirements may require helmets that are ANSI and CSA approved, and no rock climbing helmet that we know of has undergone that approval process.


Water Specific Helmets 

Helmets for working in and around water generally have foam inside and, like the NRS Havoc Livery, offer more head protection by extending to just above the nape of your neck.  They also generally have another form of adjustment from a band that sits lower on the back of your head to keep them in the proper position.  They are designed to take multiple lower speed impacts from either the side, back or top.  They need to be adjusted properly to ensure that when you are in the water they are not moving side to side or forward and back. And finally, they should  not "bucket" or create too much drag against moving water that can cause neck injury.




Cycling Helmets 

These helmets can turn up on people who do other activities, but they're not appropriate for OHS or rescue purposes for a few reasons.  They sit higher on your head and are designed using a type of foam that is generally good for one high speed impact.  They absorb and spread impact, and are a “one and done” piece of equipment.  They don’t have the penetration protection of a rope helmet or the multiple impact protection of a water helmet.  However, they protect very well when used for what they are designed for - riding your bike.  




MultiSport Helmets

So, what about those of us that participate in multiple disciplines?  Is there a true “multisport” helmet?  There are a few out there, but it is important to try them first for fit and function.  It is difficult for something to be a true master of multiple uses, while not giving up anything (generally comfort).  These helmets may meet the necessary standards, but do they meet your needs?  

I have separate helmets for each discipline to ensure I have the most comfortable fit and best possible protection while doing any given activity.  The people the multi-sport helmets are best suited for are those who are doing several activities at the same time, i.e. raft/bike trips.  Another group that this type of helmet applies to would be agencies that have members responding to a variety of technical rescues and trying to minimize kit.  However, a helmet that serves multiple uses and meets certification generally result in a higher price tag, so weigh out the costs of multisport helmets versus several specific helmets.


Our advice would be to evaluate what you are participating in, and how often.  Consider whether it makes more sense to have activity specific helmets, or to go with a multi-sport.  Ensure it is certified and appropriate for what you will be doing.  

If you have questions, feel free to call our Equipment Manager to help walk you through what might be best for your agency.


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Nicholas Carroll, Training Coordinator
Whitehorse Fire Department

Fantastic course! Fun and informative ... if school was like this, I'd be a doctor!


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