The answer may seem obvious, but the helmets of today are so much more than just a head protection. Face shield, earmuffs and rain cover are obvious accessories to the helmet. Radio and Bluetooth are often desirable. To connect your phone to be reachable and to listen to music is a must for many. But has this development happened at the cost of safety?
What’s the helmet for?
I remember the beginning of my career as a logger. You got yourself a helmet with ear, eye and rain protection. The helmet should be replaced after (I think?) five years as the plastic deteriorated over time. The rest of the equipment you could use forever. Well, maybe theoretically.
The soft parts of the earmuffs should be replaced every now and then to keep an efficient ear protection. As they wear out gradually, you didn´t notice that they got worse. Often you waited far too long to switch them out. That´s most likely one of the reasons my ears keep ringing also today.
The thing is that this was what you really needed. A head protection to protect you from falling branches etc. Earmuffs to protect your ears. Face shield to protect your face and eyes. A rain protection at the back was luxury but quite convenient, I always used it, still do.
Upgrade to modern equipment
A year ago, when I decided to hit the forest again, I realized I had to upgrade all my safety equipment and clothing. As for a helmet, I wanted a modern one, with Bluetooth for the phone and (not so important) a radio. As I bought a Husky saw, I bought the rest in the same shop meaning that it all was marked “Husqvarna”. Also the helmet of course.
At the beginning I enjoyed listening to the radio when working. I soon noticed that it was impossible to talk on the phone and give gas with the saw at the same time. I had to stop the saw when talking to someone. That was no big deal because I didn´t get many calls in a day anyway.
After a couple of months, I was sick and tired of the radio. Hearing the same music and the same news (Corona) over and over again made me turn of the radio. Then I noticed how noisy the saw was.
Ear protection should protect
How could the saw suddenly be so loud? Was something wrong with the earmuffs? I started thinking that the reason I hadn´t noticed this before was that I had listened to the radio. But the idea can´t be that the radio shall override the chainsaw? The earmuffs should of course protect the ears from the noise.
Another thing that became clear was that the earmuffs didn´t keep tight. The noise level in my ears changed as the helmet moved on my head. I´m not talking about hard hits here, just a small tap from a branch would make a difference. I could spend some minutes adjusting the helmet to make the earmuffs as tight as possible, but it wouldn´t last. I mean, you get taps on the helmet all the time when you work in thinning, and while delimbing, which I mainly do.
Somehow, I refused to accept the fact that the earmuffs were bad. It was still a new helmet, an expensive one. It can´t be anything wrong with them! So, I kept working, both with chainsaw and clearing saw. Eventually I decided to try my old helmet, the one without Bluetooth and radio, just ear protection (also a Husky helmet). Suddenly the chainsaw was much more silent.
Simple but reliable
Old people often say: “Simple is better.” I agree. Not only because I´m old, but because it´s true. On simple constructions there are less parts that could break down. Through my chainsaw dealer I contacted Husqvarna and told them about my problems. They claimed they had never heard of this problem but offered a hygiene kit as goodwill (the warranty had expired by then). As my helmet still was quite new I didn´t believe in that, instead I decided to buy a new helmet.
I searched forums on the net and found that the old Swedish brand Peltor, nowadays German 3M/Peltor, should be the best option. As I always work alone in the forest, I really want to have the phone connected to the earmuffs. From what I heard, and read, Peltor should be exactly what I needed.
My Husqvarna dealer helped me get one at a fair price. I´m very pleased with it. I can give full gas with the chainsaw and the person at the other end of the line hears the saw “far away” and my voice close. I also hear the other person much better than with the other helmet. The earmuffs keep tight over the ears and the helmet is fixed to the head. The saw is silent also when the radio is turned off. One little detail may annoy some people (but not me): There is a Stihl logo at the front of the helmet. This made the helmet cheaper for some reason. I can live with that.
Jeopardizing a good reputation?
When I started to look into this, I found several others who had similar problems with those Husky helmets. I find it strange that Husqvarna accepts that. They are one of the major brands and their equipment is good, maybe even the best. Why compromise with one detail such as the Bluetooth earmuffs?
I wrote about my Husqvarna saws here at Forestry.com. You can read that article here. I still love them, and I will keep using Husky equipment. As for helmets, 3M/Peltor rules for the moment.
Film and soundtrack
My writing colleague Torbjörn rang me up when I was using my Husky 550 XP Mrk II and we talked both through the Husky and the 3M/Peltor helmets as he recorded the chat. I made a film of it, with some photos from the site where I was working and of the helmets. Can you hear the difference?
I noticed one little detail when we recorded this “conversation”. Maybe it´s because I´m a man, but it was very difficult to talk and delimb with the chainsaw at the same time. This could also be a safety issue of course. Luckily for me, I still don´t get many calls in a day.