Delivering our service safely is something that is imbedded within every action we take and isn’t just restricted to the flying of the helicopters.
Over the coming months my photo blog will cover a variety of subjects and I will share with you some of the processes which ensure our safety as well as that of our patients and the public.
Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE as it is known, forms an important part of the aircrew’s kit and in this blog I provide an overview of the items the crew wear or take with them to every incident they attend.
When responding to an incident all the crew wear PPE to help maximise their safety both whilst flying and when on the ground. Both the pilots and Paramedics wear flame retardant flight suits and their bright red colour is an important safety feature, enabling the crew to highly visible in both urban and rural locations. Being conspicuous like this is essential and for the Paramedics who often have to walk or run long distances or cross cycle paths or roads to reach the patient, we enhance their visibility further with the addition of reflective strips on their flight suits.
Waterproof boots with strong ankle support are essential as often the helicopter has to land on uneven ground like pebble beaches, ploughed fields or open moorland. The crew not only have to walk over this to reach the patient but also of course have to carry the patient back to the aircraft over the same uneven ground.
All the crew wear aviation helmets which provide three safety functions. Firstly they are incredibly strong which protect our head just like a motorcycle helmet would. However incorporated into the helmets are hearing protection ear cups with built in speakers linked to the aircraft’s audio system. They not only protect the crew from the noise of the aircraft in flight but also enable the ability to speak to each other and the patient as well as being able to use the aircraft's radio communication system. The third safety function provided by the helmets is eye protection afforded by the two safety visors, a clear one and an additional tinted visor. They both provide protection should there ever be an impact with the windscreen such as from a bird strike, which is fortunately extremely rare but none the less possible, with the tinted visor providing additional protection from bright sunshine which can be very bright indeed when you are flying towards the direction of the sun.
When attending Road Traffic Collisions (RTC’s) the crew will wear high visibility jackets as shown in the picture above, however unlike normal ‘High Vis’ our jackets are made especially for us and are not only flame retardant but also have an anti-static mesh weaved into the outside material to help ensure our safety when at RTC’s and when refuelling the aircraft. If you look closely at the image opposite you can see the thin conductive mesh woven into the fabric.
Wearing all this PPE in the summer, especially when the heat from sun can raise the temperature inside the helicopter well above the ambient temperature, means the crew have to be mindful of their hydration levels. In the rear of the helicopter we carry bottled water which on those busy days where the opportunity to grab a drink somewhere just hasn’t happened, the crew can use to help maintain their own wellbeing and thus their effectiveness and the safety of our service.
Who would have thought a bottle of water would be an important item PPE?