Wear Your Helmet – The No Brainer

[This is the “Ground Truths” column from the Fall 2019 issue of Two More Chains.]

Ground Truths

Wear Your Helmet

By Travis Dotson

Yep, that’s it. This whole article is in the title. I’m done. But, obviously not, because the words are still going.

It’s like trying to hang up the phone with someone who loves to talk, they just keep going and it gets kind of awkward. I’m still talking. I’m making this awkward. I’m that guy…watch.

Ground Truths photoAnalysis: No Brainer

I recently did some analysis.

I read every tree felling accident report on file since 2004. Then I started counting stuff. Like this: When firefighters get hit by trees during felling operations, how often is it a knock to the noggin?

Turns out that 51% of the time, the tree strike involved a direct hit to the helmet.

So, IF you were to be smacked by a tree during a felling operation, chances are good it will be a head shot.

Simple analysis; simple conclusion: Wear your helmet.

No brainer.

The Crazy Part

Now, here is the crazy part. Your helmet works better if it stays on your head. Guess what helps keep your helmet on your head? Hint, it involves your mandible. I suck at hints. It’s that little piece of webbing, elastic, or p-chord typically reserved for helicopter rides.

So, IF you were to use data to drive your decisions, you would now be sure to put on your chinstrap before you dog into a face-cut. In fact, you would strap-up even when sizing-up or prepping a falling operation, because people get whacked by trees before they even pull chord (8% of the time).

You would also tie your helmet to your skull if you’re anywhere near falling operations, like prepping a road or pulling brush on a thinning project. Because, guess what, 15% of the time the person that got nailed wasn’t involved with the falling operation, but somehow ended up in the fall area. We’ve all done it, whether pushing the limit on proximity for the sake of production, or just betting wrong on where the tree will land.

So the data says cinch-up your helmet holder.

Is that going to happen?



Because we don’t decide what to do based on data. We decide based on what our peers think, or more likely, what we THINK our peers think. And chinstraps are not cool. Yet.

Real-Deal Leaders

Transparency time: My intent here is that these words find their way to ONE supervisor who cares more about spines than selfies.

If you are in charge, make your sawyers wear chinstraps. (Hey suave sawyers: Sorry; Not sorry.)

If some real-deal leaders step up, soon, the chinstrap “look” will become associated with sawyers. We all want to be sawyers.

Before we know it, cool will shift.

For those of you in the first wave, the ones who have to look uncool because their boss made them, I totally understand if you give me that one-finger salute in fire camp.

I do understand that rocking a helmet does not guarantee anything in the survival department. And yes, we can make the case for better dome guards, but something is better than nothing. And that something works better if it stays put.

What the Title Should Be

So I lied.

The title doesn’t say it all. Plus, it’s a dumb title, because we are pretty good at wearing helmets.

The title should be: Wear Your Chinstrap.

But that is a horrible title, because no one would read that article.

I just tricked you into reading about chinstraps.

See you in fire camp—I’ll keep an eye out for the sour sawyer salute.

Swing on, Toolswingers.


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