Helmets - to remove or not to remove?

Removing a helmet from an injured rider

To Remove or not to remove - that is the question!

Even though summer is not exactly the sun-fest that we have come to expect this year, bikers are still taking advantage of those weekends when the rain stays away to get out and ride. Last weekend Boxhill in Surrey was packed, and so were many of the other famous biking meeting places " and as usual there was the same eclectic mix of bikes and riders, from Harleys to RI and Honda 125's to street cred muscle bikes. One thing that we all have in common - we all could be unlucky enough to come across an accident when out riding. This is where the First Bike on Scene Course comes in. The course, which was developed by North West Ambulance Service paramedic Andrew Sullivan in 2003 is now available throughout the UK. This course is all about getting as many of us as possible equipped to do the right thing if we find ourselves among the first to arrive. The course covers a whole range of key issues relating to motorcycle accident scene management including the really vexed issue of helmet removal. Andrew points out a number of really interesting facts which all help to provide an answer to the question.... When - and how - do you remove a rider's safety helmet?

'There is so much confusion about helmet removal. Some years ago riders often used stickers stating 'In the case of accident do not remove helmet'. It is my opinion that such a definitive statement was always of doubtful benefit. Such stickers may have had some place in the days when riders predominantly wore open face helmets, but now things are very different. Full-face helmets are the order of the day, and flip fronts still relatively rare.

It is our experience at NW Ambulance that up to 30% of fatalities result from restrictions to the airway. Choking, swallowing the tongue, or restriction caused as a result of the awkward position in which a casualty ends up is far from uncommon. In case like these where a rider is wearing a full-face helmet, it could be that he helmet is causing the obstruction and is therefore a major risk for the rider'.

In such cases, removal of a helmet could become a life saving action. You will not be able to provide resuscitation through the open visor of a full-face helmet, but removing a helmet incorrectly could cause additional serious injury. Clearly there is a dilemma here, and with all the other considerations at the scene of an accident this could be one decision too far for most riders.

This is another vital area of 'accident scene management' where attending a First Bike on Scene could be the answer. Helmet removal is a contentious issue, and one that FBoS addresses 'head on' (if you will excuse the pun). On an FBoS course you will be provided with background information and detail that is designed to help you make a decision as to whether or not it is necessary to remove a helmet from an injured rider. It will provide you with the confidence to make that decision and once made it will teach you the helmet removal techniques that are used by professional rescue workers and paramedics throughout the world " techniques which successfully reduce the potential for additional injury to the casualty.

Most importantly, you will have the opportunity to try the technique with your fellow riders. Much emphasis is placed on demonstration and application. You will discover that when done properly, quick and effective helmet removal is not difficult. Together with others on the course you will have the chance to make sure that the technique comes a second nature before you leave.

By acting quickly, decisively and effectively at the scene of an accident you will be able to reduce the risks for the casualty. Opening airways and resuscitating could have a real impact on the numbers of riders who fail to survive the accident.

Andrew concluded by pointing out an attention focusing fact. 'If all riders had the skills to make the correct judgement call, and the techniques to act then, based on our figures alone as many as 180 riders who currently die on the roads each year, could survive. We could all make THAT MUCH difference'.

So by learning the skills and getting the confidence to make that judgement you could be saving a life. Call FBoS and book a course as soon as possible on 0870 8330 999