Hospital staff can be exposed to helicopter-related equipment hazards, including the tail rotor and the primary rotor system (helicopter blades). These blades can seriously injure or kill an unaware or uneducated staff member. Hats, loose clothing, and gloves can be sucked into the engine air intake fans, potentially causing a helicopter to malfunction and crash.
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The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise at work each year. Whether you work around a hospital helipad, on a tarmac, in an operating room, or operate a jackhammer—hearing loss is preventable.
Noise may be a problem in your workplace if you:
Hospital staff can be exposed to potential hearing loss, hearing impairment, elevated blood pressure levels, and other health hazards from exposure to the helicopter's loud sounds while in operation.
If you need to raise your voice to speak to someone 3 feet away, noise levels might be over 85 decibels. Elevated noise levels pose an additional threat to workers if they cannot communicate or warn each other of potential dangers or hazardous situations.
A safety and health program that recognizes and addresses the hazards in a hospital heliport area would help keep workers safe.
OSHA's 29 CFR 1910.95 Occupational Noise Exposure Standard requires any feasible implementation of administrative and heliport controls whenever employee noise exposures exceed 90 dBA (8-hour time-weighted average: TWA).
Some example of heliport controls to help prevent noise exposure include:
Debris on the hospital helipad can potentially cause injuries. Helicopter blades can cause high winds that can throw loose items or trash towards employees and potentially injure them.
As mentioned earlier in this course, proper housekeeping is necessary for the helipad area (29 CFR 1910.183(g)). The helipad should be kept free of all garbage, litter, or other debris. All items, such as loose clothing, hats, gloves, scarves, and medical equipment, must be secured appropriately before entering the helipad area. Each time a helicopter is headed to your facility, it is a good idea to have one individual walk the entire helipad looking for foreign debris. It is necessary to look all around the helipad for debris, such as a plastic bag, that could cause issues for the helicopter and its rotors as they arrive on scene.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) designed to protect against heliport-related hazards should be worn whenever working near an operating helicopter.
Helipad workers are at risk of suffering musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) injuries while transferring patients to or from the helicopter. MSD injuries can include:
Lifting or twisting while moving a patient can significantly strain the back, neck, arms, or legs resulting in an injury. It is very important to use proper patient lifting and moving techniques to avoid injury. Make sure your facility has the correct number of people ready to assist when a helicopter arrives to help minimize the risk of lifting injuries.
Helipad workers can be exposed to fuel-related hazards, such as fires and explosions. Sources of ignition, such as sparks or matches, can ignite vapors during refueling. Under no circumstances should smoking be permitted in the helipad or helicopter refueling area. Additionally, fire extinguishers and other firefighting equipment should be located adjacent to the helipad. National Fire Protection Associate (NFPA) standards for heliports (418) establish the rescue and firefighting criteria to be followed.
Here are some possible solutions to help prevent dangerous fueling hazards:
There are many other things to be aware of while working around a helipad. Here are a few things:
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