Course 180 Healthcare: Hospital Heliport Safety

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Heliport Safety

Equipment Hazards

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.

Be alert
It is vital to stay alert around helicopters to avoid injury.

Possible Solutions

  • Limit access to the heliport area to staff trained in helicopter equipment hazards.
  • Establish safe work practices, such as:
    • Do not administer CPR to patients on transport carts while the carts are under the helicopter blade. This may elevate a staff member's height to the extent that staff members could be hit by the helicopter blades.
    • Approach and leave the helicopter in a crouched manner when rotors are turning.
    • Properly secure all items such as loose clothing, hats, gloves, scarves while in the helicopter area.
    • Good housekeeping shall be maintained in all helicopter loading and unloading areas (29 CFR 1910.183(g)).
    • Avoid the tail rotor area and helicopter blade area.
    • While checking the helipad area, make sure the windsock is up, all the lights are working, and everything looks good mechanically.

Read the material in each section to find the correct answers to each of the questions. After answering all questions, click the "Check Quiz Answers" button to see your score and a list of missed questions. To correct a question, return to the question, review the material, change your answer, and return to the last section page. Click the "Check Quiz Answers" again to recheck the results.

Do not use the browser's "Back" arrow or "Refresh" button to navigate course section pages. Use the dark tabs above (1.1, 1.2, 1.3, etc.) to review/change missed questions.

Note: Videos and exercises in our courses are for information only and not required to view. Final exam questions will not be derived from the videos. OSHAcademy is not responsible for video content.

1. Why should hats, loose clothing, and gloves not be worn around the helicopter tail rotor?

a. Can cause distractions
b. They are acceptable to wear
c. The worker will get too hot
d. They can be sucked into the engine air intake fans

Next Section

Noise and Communication

Hospital staff can be exposed to potential hearing loss from the helicopter's loud sounds.
Click to Enlarge

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:

  • hear ringing or humming in your ears when you leave work
  • must shout to be heard by a coworker an arm's length away
  • experience temporary hearing loss when leaving work

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 and your employer is required by 1910.95(c) Occupational Noise Exposure Standard) to provide develop a hearing protection program and adequate hearing protection. Elevated noise levels pose an additional threat to workers if they cannot communicate or warn each other of potential dangers or hazardous situations.

Possible Solutions

A safety and health program that recognizes and addresses the hazards in a hospital heliport area would help keep workers safe.

OSHA's 1910.95(b)(1) Occupational Noise Exposure Standard requires the employer to use administrative or engineering heliport controls to lower exposure to noise whenever it exceeds a 90 dBA average over 8 hours.

Some example of heliport controls to help prevent noise exposure include:

  • Provide appropriate equipment to protect the hearing of staff.
  • Use aviation helmets that include special hearing protection and communication systems to enable staff to communicate through the helmets.

2. The employer must develop a hearing conservation program whenever employee noise exposures _____.

a. equal or exceed an 8-hour average sound level of 85 decibels
b. make it impossible to hear someone on the helicopter pad
c. when helicopter rotors are operating (spinning)
d. are at uncomfortable levels when unloading patients

Next Section

Debris on Helipad

Proper housekeeping is necessary to prevent injuries in the helipad area.

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.

Possible Solutions

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 an important safety practice to have one individual walk the entire helipad looking for foreign debris. It is necessary to look all around the helipad for debris, such plastic bags, wind-blown objects, or material from previous landings that could cause issues for the helicopter and its rotors as it lands.

3. Before a helicopter lands at your facility, it is an important safety practice to _____.

a. enter the helipad area to direct the helicopter landing
b. walk the entire helipad to clear foreign debris
c. ensure patients are removed quickly as the helicopter lands
d. check OSHA rules for landing procedures

Next Section


Helipad workers are at risk of suffering musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) injuries.

Helipad workers are most likely at risk of suffering musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) injuries while transferring patients to or from the helicopter due to the lifting and twisting movements required.

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.

Possible Solutions

Preventing MSD injuries is an integral part of any health and safety program. You can reduce the risk of suffering an injury by implementing these control measures:
  • Use lifting and transfer equipment when moving a patient.
  • Incorporate adjustable stretchers inside the helicopter to avoid twisting and reduce unnecessary lifting.
  • Use a gurney or motorized cart to transport patients from the helicopter to the emergency room.
  • Do not rush. Try to overcome distractions. Rushing while distracted increases the risk of MSDs, tripping, or falling.

4. When are helipad workers are most likely at risk of suffering musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) injuries?

a. When moving equipment on the helipad
b. When transferring patients to/from the helicopter
c. When taking patient vitals
d. When walking up the stairs to the helipad

Next Section

Fueling Hazards

Fire extinguishers should be located adjacent to the helipad to help prevent fires and/or explosions.
Click to Enlarge

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.

Possible Solutions

Here are some possible solutions to help prevent dangerous fueling hazards:

  • No smoking should be allowed in the helipad area.
  • A grounding cable should be attached to the helicopter while fueling. This will prevent sparks from occurring.

5. What are possible sources of ignition that can ignite vapors during refueling?

a. From sparks or matches in the area
b. Fire in the area
c. MRI Equipment
d. Cell phones

Next Section

Other Safety Considerations

Essential Elements
There are many safety things to be aware of while working around a helipad.

There are many other things to be aware of while working around a helipad. Here are a few things:

  • A safety area surrounding the final approach and takeoff area (FATO) should be clear of obstacles that are not required due to their function.
  • Fixed objects within the safety area should not exceed a height of 8 inches (20 cm), nor should they penetrate the approach/departure surface.
  • The helipad pavement should have a broomed or roughened finish that provides a skid-resistant surface for helicopters and non-slippery footing for workers and moving patients on gurneys.
  • Hospital equipment, such as magnetic resonance imagers (MRI) machines, can interfere with a helicopter’s magnetic compass and other navigational systems. A warning sign alerting pilots to the presence of an MRI is recommended. Steps should also be taken to inform pilots of the location of MRI and similar equipment.
  • A safety net, not less than 5 feet wide, should be provided when the touchdown and lift-off area (TLOF) is elevated more than 30 inches (76 cm) above the ground.
  • A windsock should be used to provide the pilots with valid wind direction and speed information in the heliport's vicinity. For night operation, the windsock should be illuminated to ensure it is clearly visible.
  • If there is ever an accident on the helipad, do NOT put yourself in danger. Immediately activate the facilities emergency response system and activate the fire suppression system if a crash has occurred. Notify your hospital supervisor as soon as possible.

6. Why is a warning sign alerting pilots to the presence of an MRI machine recommended?

a. Because an MRI can interfere with a helicopter landing equipment
b. Because an MRI is an expensive piece of equipment that can be damaged easily
c. So the patient can be transported to the MRI quickly
d. Because an MRI can interfere with a helicopter’s magnetic compass and other navigational systems

Check your Work

Click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button to grade your quiz and see your score. You will receive a message if you forgot to answer one of the questions. After clicking the button, the questions you missed will be listed below. You can correct any missed questions and recheck your answers.

OSHAcademy Ultimate Guide Banner Ad