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Helmet Use in the News

post #1 of 131
Thread Starter 
Well, we had a long thread last spring about Vail's new policy mandating helmet use among employees.

Today, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort was cited by the Wyoming Department of Employment for "not ensuring the use of head protection to help prevent or reduce the severity of head injuries" in the death last spring of ski patroller Kathryn Miller. 

Kathryn and another patroller were skiing Spacewalk Couloir, just outside the Rendezvous Bowl boundary ropes when she fell, cartwheeled, and struck the rocks on the side of the couloir.  She died shortly thereafter of head injuries.  She and the other patroller were on duty and doing an out-of-bounds area check at the time.  I didn't know Kathryn other than to say "hi" on the mountain but by all accounts she was a wonderful person and an outstanding skier.  Her death hit our ski patrol very hard.

So with all due respect to Kathryn's memory, this decision by the Wyoming Department of Employment is idiotic.  The Employment Department cited the mountain resort EVEN THOUGH at the time there was no mandatory employee helmet policy at any ski resort anywhere in the United States.

The ski corporation is appealing. 

Here's a link to the article: http://www.jhguide.com/article.php?art_id=4854

I predict a mandatory helmet in my future.
post #2 of 131
We have had this discussion in the past where I work. By making helmets mandatory it makes the resort instantly liable if a employee is injured without the helmet on. By making the helmets voluntary the resort has some chance of not being held liable.
post #3 of 131
What difference would it have made if the body they found had of had a helmet on? 
I suppose the taxi, limousine, and bus companies better look out too.
post #4 of 131
 In my mind, there are a couple of thoughts here. 

A) If a worker is "on the clock", as long as (s)he is receiving a paycheck from that company, they are agreeing to abide by the rules in representing that ski area, if that is wearing a helmet so be it. (requiring them to wear a "chicken suit" is taking it to to Nth degree so don't even go there)

B) I am fearful for the first death/severe head trauma from the employee who IS wearing a helmet, that is going to be a $hit storm. IMHO, this is why an insurance company owned ski area like Stowe never had this as a mandatory policy.

C) Employees who are not on the clock should not be required to wear a helmet when freeskiing. 


Bob,
It is not "if" you will be required to wear a helmet, but "when". Might as well start shopping now for one you like. I also do not see how a resort can be liable for something that wasn't required to be enforced. 
post #5 of 131
I'd bet about as many ambulance drivers as patrollers die, on the job, from head injuries.  The ambulance drivers never have it suggested they wear helmets.   I realize the Wyoming regulatory employee was probably sincerely trying to do a good job, but sincere actions grounded in amazing ignorance can have all sorts of unintended, pernicious, effects. 

There likely will be a skier/rider reaction against the current regulatory momentum, but if not, look for safety nannies to push for "ability testing," deeming certain runs "unjustifiable risks"  that need to be permanently shut, etc. once they get everyone fully helmeted, and then padded (that will be next -- spine protectors, etc.) up.  None of which will acctually increase safety.
post #6 of 131
Something interesting I found out last year. Since skiers have started wearing helmets, the number of deaths has not changed. The helmets are helping in the number of serious injuries, but in the case of deaths they do not seem to be making a difference.
post #7 of 131
Wow, I talked to Kathryn a few times riding on the JH lifts.  Great lady.  Very sad. 



IMHO and experience with ski related deaths, helmets don't save lives.  As a ski patroller here in the east, I was the last patroller off the hill on sweep on the last day of the season not wearing a helmet. Next season all employees at my mountain must wear helmets .   BTW I wear a helmet when I am not ski patrolling. Helmets probably won't save your life but it does reduce the number CT scans for skiers and snowboarders.    
post #8 of 131
My thoughts about safey are influenced by a career in the high voltage power power industry where employee and public safety is taken very seriously. The management of any ski area has both a legal (read OSHA) and moral responsibility to assure both workers and the public remain safe. I really hope the areas where I ski have comprehensive safety practices regarding lift maintenace, driving snowcats and grooming equipment, lift attendants, transportation, whatever. I think any skier would be outraged if a safety policy or maintenance proceedure was violated and a member of the public was injured.

It bothers me to see lift attendants wearing safety helmets to conform to a policy, but, wear them backwards or very loose fitting so that they would be immediately knocked off.

How does a ski area safety professional justify a member of the ski patrol, ski instructor or mountain maintenace staff not wearing a helmet? Aren't these the same people who go almost anywhere on the mountain to do avalance control and work with explosive devices? You simply can't choose a group of people who are exempt from safe work paractices. When your on the clock, it's a whole different set of rules.
post #9 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by CR0SS View Post

By making helmets mandatory it makes the resort instantly liable if a employee is injured without the helmet on. By making the helmets voluntary the resort has some chance of not being held liable.
 

Sounds like your resort is getting bad advice from its lawyers.
post #10 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by Philpug View Post

 In my mind, there are a couple of thoughts here. 

A) If a worker is "on the clock", as long as (s)he is receiving a paycheck from that company, they are agreeing to abide by the rules in representing that ski area, if that is wearing a helmet so be it. (requiring them to wear a "chicken suit" is taking it to to Nth degree so don't even go there)

B) I am fearful for the first death/severe head trauma from the employee who IS wearing a helmet, that is going to be a $hit storm. IMHO, this is why an insurance company owned ski area like Stowe never had this as a mandatory policy.

C) Employees who are not on the clock should not be required to wear a helmet when freeskiing. 


Bob,
It is not "if" you will be required to wear a helmet, but "when". Might as well start shopping now for one you like. I also do not see how a resort can be liable for something that wasn't required to be enforced. 

I tend to agree with this post in it's entirety.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimski View Post




Sounds like your resort is getting bad advice from its lawyers.

 
Not necessarily from the lawyers but from their risk management personel, which may include attorneys.
At our local motocross track, we require helmets for racers but do not require all other safety gear,(back protector, chest protector, knee pads, dirt bike boots, etc...).
We recommend all of that safety gear but do not require it, because our risk management advisors said that would make us liable to police it and then we would be liable if a racer got on the track without a piece of that safety gear.

I can see how a resort would not want to be liable to "police" the wearing of safety gear.
post #11 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by Living Proof View Post

...How does a ski area safety professional justify a member of the ski patrol, ski instructor or mountain maintenace staff not wearing a helmet? Aren't these the same people who go almost anywhere on the mountain to do avalance control and work with explosive devices? ...

 


Patrollers do all types of work, including sometimes control work with explosives, that ski/snowboard helmets are not designed at present, at all, to minimize the risk of. There are some situations where helmets could interfere with job-specific tasks that patrollers have.  There is not a high rate of head injuries among patrollers (or instructors, or lifties) while on-duty. 

Patrollers, in particular those at areas with steep and exposed terrain with significant objective hazards, are in a group, along with guides of the ski/mountaineering/climbing variety, that actually has a truly remarkable safety record given the environments in which they work.  Letting them decide what safe work practices may be, rather than trying to assess it from afar, might make sense.
post #12 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by CTKook View Post

Patrollers, in particular those at areas with steep and exposed terrain with significant objective hazards, are in a group, along with guides of the ski/mountaineering/climbing variety, that actually has a truly remarkable safety record given the environments in which they work.  Letting them decide what safe work practices may be, rather than trying to assess it from afar, might make sense.

Well said.  Very well said.  
post #13 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by Living Proof View Post

My thoughts about safey are influenced by a career in the high voltage power power industry where employee and public safety is taken very seriously. The management of any ski area has both a legal (read OSHA) and moral responsibility to assure both workers and the public remain safe. I really hope the areas where I ski have comprehensive safety practices regarding lift maintenace, driving snowcats and grooming equipment, lift attendants, transportation, whatever. I think any skier would be outraged if a safety policy or maintenance proceedure was violated and a member of the public was injured.

It bothers me to see lift attendants wearing safety helmets to conform to a policy, but, wear them backwards or very loose fitting so that they would be immediately knocked off.

How does a ski area safety professional justify a member of the ski patrol, ski instructor or mountain maintenace staff not wearing a helmet? Aren't these the same people who go almost anywhere on the mountain to do avalance control and work with explosive devices? You simply can't choose a group of people who are exempt from safe work paractices. When your on the clock, it's a whole different set of rules.

Because it's a proven fact that helmets do not prevent serious injuries or death.  When a ski helmet is designed to do so, then it's a different story.

They are not a fail safe as many people think.

post #14 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lars View Post




Because it's a proven fact that helmets do not prevent serious injuries or death.  When a ski helmet is designed to do so, then it's a different story.

They are not a fail safe as many people think.


Where is this "proof"?
post #15 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lars View Post


Because it's a proven fact that helmets do not prevent serious injuries or death.  When a ski helmet is designed to do so, then it's a different story.

They are not a fail safe as many people think.

 

"Proven" is a pretty strong word. 

Correct to say that a helmet won't provide a guarantee of safety, but false to say that a helmet will not help.

Here's a case which is clear proof that in fact a helmet can save a life:
http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_7633831
post #16 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lars View Post




Because it's a proven fact that helmets do not prevent serious injuries or death.  When a ski helmet is designed to do so, then it's a different story.

They are not a fail safe as many people think.

No rational person thinks they are fail safe. However, the blanket statement above is just plain foolishness.  I know at least one healthy young adult alive today because of a helmet worn while skiing (albeit with a bit of titanium in her face). And I know of several instances where helmets likely prevented significant injury by deflecting hard glancing blows.

I know there are always the nasty details you discover when deep in the realities of a business - so this is a somewhat qualified set of statements. But I have to say that I am stunned that ski areas in general do not require staff to wear helmets & that they do not create incentives for customers to wear helmets as well. If I owned a ski area, I'm pretty sure all staff would be required to wear helmets whenever they were skiing - on or off the clock.
post #17 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by spindrift View Post

not create incentives for customers to wear helmets as well.

Something to think about:  How about a discount on lift tix for anyone wearing a helmet? 
post #18 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by kbuzz View Post




Something to think about:  How about a discount on lift tix for anyone wearing a helmet? 
How can it be controlled? You could have 5 people walk up to the ticket window with the same helmet? 
post #19 of 131

 At Bridger Bowl, they require skiers to have an Avi Beacon to access Schlasman's Chairlift. How is that different than requiring a skier to wear a helmet to ride access ANY lift? 

post #20 of 131
Thread Starter 
This discussion has trended more along the lines of the same old helmets - wear 'em or don't wear 'em argument. 

What prompted me to post in the first place was what I considered to be the insane decision by the employment department to cite the SKI AREA for not "protecting" the employee. 

The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has had professional patrollers for 42 years.  Ski helmets have been available for AT LEAST thirty of those years and perhaps longer.  The ski area has probably averaged 30 (give or take) patrollers on duty every day of the season for those 42 years.  If I'm doing my math correctly, that works out to over 175,000 patroller work days.  Other than this unfortunate case, I'm aware of almost no serious head injuries during all those days.  I wonder if the department even talked to any professional patrollers to learn why a patroller would or wouldn't wear a helmet on duty.

I'd be interested in hearing from as many pro patrollers as possible on this question: 

If helmets are NOT mandatory under your ski area's policies, do you wear a helmet while "on the clock"?   

I ask the on-the-clock part because I do know of a few patrollers here at Jackson Hole who occasionally (the key word here) wear helmets when they're free-skiing but do not wear them when they're actually on duty.

Going back to CTKook's excellent, excellent observation:

Patrollers, in particular those at areas with steep and exposed terrain with significant objective hazards, are in a group, along with guides of the ski/mountaineering/climbing variety, that actually has a truly remarkable safety record given the environments in which they work.  Letting them decide what safe work practices may be, rather than trying to assess it from afar, might make sense.

Wouldn't it be safe to assume that most pro patrollers:

A. Are smart enough to at least be aware of the fact that a helmet could save their lives or reduce injuries in certain situations?

and

B. Would be very likely at some point to have seen the actual results of an injury situation when the head involved had a helmet and did not?

And if most of them choose NOT to wear helmets on duty (until they're forced to) what do you suppose accounts for that decision?
post #21 of 131
I wear a helmet when I know I'm going to have more than 2 beers....at >2, I sometimes fall off my chair on my head mostly...

But seriously, I can't find any disadvantages in wearing a helmet when skiing or riding....

I would say that if you believe that you don't have enough brains to protect, then go helmet-less.... and,
ski resorts requiring employees on the clock to wear helmets seems like a pretty good idea....they could even provide generic helmets to help enforce this.

I just finished climbing Mt Shasta and the guide service required all 8 of us to wear their supplied helmets, altho we never encountered any danger...

What do I know?
post #22 of 131
It might be easier to say, helmets never hurt anyone. This is going nationwide, go with the gravity, there will be NO stopping it. OSHA is on it, so someone has an agenda. Regulatory bodies always win, even if we get shafted in the end. Vailed reference to Bernie Madoff..

Personally, I think helmets are great, they cut down the number of lacerations when tree skiing, and add a touch of sun and cold protection as well. I did have my brains saved by one, but it was a heavier, rivetted bike helmet in the late '80s.

Remember the cigarette, its days are numbered.
post #23 of 131
Hi all,  I've been a casual viewer of the Epic forums for a long time now.... And now it is time to post! (OK so I'm bored at work!)

Here is my take on all this:

We are adults who once made aware of the risks, should be allowed to make our own decisions at our own risk.

Children should be encouraged or required to wear helmets.... In 10yrs time this discussion will be pointless 'cos everyone will treat a helmet as the norm anyway.

The ski resort did not prevent the patroller from wearing a helmet.

Most ski resorts ofter staff hefty discounts on equipment that is related to their work, including helmets.

I wear a helmet when riding in my own time, but not when I'm teaching.... I'm a level 1 and generally get beginner lessons, the "image" of an instructor on a bunny hill with a helmet doesn't inspire the greatest confidence in your class....  I will ALWAYS recommend the use of a helmet and NEVER say they are a bad idea.

Resorts should encourage the use, but still allow the individual to make the choice.
post #24 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimski View Post




Sounds like your resort is getting bad advice from its lawyers.

 




Quote:
Originally Posted by Trekchick View Post




I tend to agree with this post in it's entirety.



Not necessarily from the lawyers but from their risk management personel, which may include attorneys.
At our local motocross track, we require helmets for racers but do not require all other safety gear,(back protector, chest protector, knee pads, dirt bike boots, etc...).
We recommend all of that safety gear but do not require it, because our risk management advisors said that would make us liable to police it and then we would be liable if a racer got on the track without a piece of that safety gear.

I can see how a resort would not want to be liable to "police" the wearing of safety gear.
 

Exactly making helmets mandatory you are required to make sure they are worn at all times. This advice is not coming from risk management.

This debate happens more with concern to helmets and snowmobiles. Most CO resorts do not require helmets. Some of the reasons behind this are in Co you do not need a helmet to ride a motorcycle on the road how is a snowmobile different. The other is Ski helmets do not meet the proper requirements for a snowmobile. So does your resort allow a employee to wear the wrong kind of helmet or force them to carry around multiple helmets?
post #25 of 131
Whistler/Blackcomb requires youth instructors to wear helmets



And why not just make it mandatory for all mountain staff?

“I think that’s just a bigger step to make,” McSkimming said. “In the adult area we have a larger number not wearing helmets, so it might be a bigger issue. We’ll go with this step and either leave it where it is or sort of expand it from there.”



I would think examples are fine but big people fall farther down than little folks and usually don't fall as well. Their  expressed reasoning is suspect. What are they saying ? It's easier to bully the beginner instructors than the big guys ?
They probably plan to include others but are sending up the trial balloon to see if it gets shot down or gathers support.
post #26 of 131
Hundreds of companies require their employees to wear certain safety equipment, follow certain safety rules, etc. -- even if doing so is beyond what is required by federal (OSHA) or state law.  I doubt that many of these companies believe their risk of legal exposure has increased due to the added margin of safety they are providing.  But, hey, who am I to second-guess ski resort lawyers?  
post #27 of 131
 Back to Bob's original post and his intent......
I can't imagine that the Municipalities can justifiably accuse Jackson Hole of being negligent in causing the death of an employee due to resort policies, especially when there is no Municipal law in regard to helmet use for this occupation.
post #28 of 131
I don't want a mandatory helmet law, but I think it is wise to wear one.
For the last 10 or 15 years I have never skied without one.

I love my old SCOTT helmet and I just got a new RuRoC.

http://store.ruroc.com/c-8-adult-helmet-packages.aspx

Helmet, Goggles and Mask system.

Neat!!!!
post #29 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Peters View Post

What prompted me to post in the first place was what I considered to be the insane decision by the employment department to cite the SKI AREA for not "protecting" the employee.  
...

If I'm doing my math correctly, that works out to over 175,000 patroller work days.  Other than this unfortunate case, I'm aware of almost no serious head injuries during all those days.  I wonder if the department even talked to any professional patrollers to learn why a patroller would or wouldn't wear a helmet on duty.
 

I'll go along with the math, but it might not really matter -- in situations like this it can be the one individual case that is just as likely to set the precedent.

A liability assessment by the employment department might have gone something like this:

* ski helmets provide safety protection.
* ski resort operators (i.e. the decision-making management level) know the benefits (and yes, limitations) of helmets as protective equipment.
* a ski helmet might have provided a sufficient measure of protection to save the life of this particular accident victim.
* if the employer had required their employee to wear a helmet, a death may have been prevented.
* by not explicitly requiring employees to wear a helmet, the employer did not go as far as they could have to protect the safety of their employees.

Whether this line of reasoning is right or wrong will be decided in a courtroom after much detailed discussion.  The general line of thought is not so rare, if you've had some exposure to industrial safety investigations.
post #30 of 131
But they'll probably have a system in place for policing that use.....  Point here being that the mountain would have to ensure the use of helmets at all times by all staff or risk being liable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimski View Post

Hundreds of companies require their employees to wear certain safety equipment, follow certain safety rules, etc. -- even if doing so is beyond what is required by federal (OSHA) or state law.  I doubt that many of these companies believe their risk of legal exposure has increased due to the added margin of safety they are providing.  But, hey, who am I to second-guess ski resort lawyers?  
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