ATV and UTV Helmet “Rules” for the Fireline

[This is the “Shop Talk” section from the Fall 2019 issue of Two More Chains.]

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What are the Helmet “Rules” for ATVs and UTVs?

For the Specifics: Read the “Red Book” Chapter 14, Page 5:

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Photo by Kari Greer

ATV Rules

Pretty Basic: You Gotta Rock a Motorcycle Type Helmet

UTV Rules

A Difference in Policy

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NPS, BLM, and FWS requirements are based on a “risk assessment.”

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The Forest Service requires motorcycle type helmets to be worn at all times when operating UTVs.

From The Red Book:

Bureau of Land Management

A comprehensive and properly prepared RA [Risk Analysis] of the specific conditions demonstrates no more than a medium residual risk level, then a hardhat meeting NFPA 1977 or ANSI Z 89.1 2009 Type 1, Class G standards may be worn with chinstrap secured in place under chin.

National Park Service

Approved helmets are required for UTV operations that are rated moderate (amber) or high (red) using the “ORV Risk 36 Assessment Tool” included in the NPS Off-Highway Vehicle Policy.

Fish and Wildlife Service

Per 243 FW 6.6 B.1, a hardhat meeting NFPA 1977 or ANSI Z 89.1 standards may be worn with chinstraps secured in place unless the risk assessment for the operation dictates wearing a securely fastened motorcycle helmet.

Forest Service

Wearing hardhats while driving or riding on a UTV is not allowed. UTV Helmet (for fire use) requirements are the same as ATV use.

Here’s the Proof That It Matters What Helmet You Wear on ATVs and UTVs

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The Voice of Experience

“I have talked to several people to tell them this story—from firefighters to hotshot superintendents, to safety officers and others. I feel I need to tell this story as many times as I can to—if nothing else—impress the idea that UTV safety and helmet wear is a must. I’m willing talk to anyone who is on the fence about not wearing a helmet while operating a UTV or ATV.”

 “Approved 3/4 shell motorcycle helmets are a must.”

Barry Green, Division Supervisor on the Juniper Fire, from his “UTV Rollover RLS”

“No one was injured in this incident, but the ATV sustained severe damage as it rolled down into the drainage.”

“The helmet used on this day was so old it had no markings, it was at least 20 years old, and designed for snow use, not ATV use. The age and materials of this helmet contributed to the severity of the injuries sustained.”


“The FIRB was unaware that UTV1 was starting to tip when his passenger grabbed the roll bar and said “Whoa”—causing the FIRB to hesitate for a moment. In that instant, both he and the passenger felt a slow-motion tipping of UTV1 as it came to rest on its right side.”

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