Radio headsets for dozer operators

Adventure Fire
Dozer puts in fire line on the Adventure Fire north of Placerville, California, July 16, 2015. CAL FIRE photo.

Should all heavy equipment operators have access to radio headsets?Tim Banaszak pointed out to us that while working on a fire, communication between an operator and the Heavy Equipment Boss (HEQB) can be difficult or impossible. The equipment makes so much noise that it can be a challenge to hear the radio. Even relying on hand signals is not reliable due to dust and vegetation, Mr. Banaszak said.

We are still throwing rocks or sticks to get the operator’s attention, YIKES! The high RPM noise makes a portable [radio] useless. All other fireline operations have a clear and reliable communication link. Just hearing the word STOP can prevent equipment damage, an injury, or even worse.

He suggests that a cache of headsets for radios be available that could be checked out at a fire with the operator’s portable radio.

What do you think? Is this a problem that needs solving?

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills. Google+

12 thoughts on “Radio headsets for dozer operators”

  1. Arborists wear them to communicate with ground crew over the noise of chippers and to talk to crane operators many feet away. Motorcyclists have been using them for years also. At a cost of about $200 per headset it’s insane to find out they haven’t been used in fire yet….

  2. The Virginia Dept of Forestry uses David Clark headsets for dozer operators. They work very well and have greatly improved communications and safety.

    1. I’ll second that. As a VA DOF operator, we use the headsets for all dozer operations, fire and non-fire and even in the newer closed cab machines. I can’t imagine working a fire without one.

  3. YES. As a former rx fire contractor we REQUIRED headsets or ear buds under hearing protection for all high noise jobs. Engine operators, Sawyers dozer or tractor operations.

    For a contractor the efficiency increase was easily worth the cost. The safety bonus was extra. Everyone had radios and their ear bud or headset.

  4. As a 16 year agency IA dozer operator I used a headset (David Clark) aviation unit from day one in the open cab D6C. And still this day in our secondary open cab John Deere. When we got the the new D6N I hooked a mobile radio into the dual speakers in the roof of the enclosed cab intended for FM music radio. It is extremely loud and crystal clear. We have a second headset available for at least one contractor dozer as well. I find it ridiculous that it is not a requirement for all heavy equipment to have flawless communication this day and age.

  5. The technology is there and we should have been using it a long time ago. Most portable radios have headsets that can be used with them. There are also attachments that can be plugged into flight helmets to use them with portables.
    There are some marine grade headsets that are very weather proof and would work well.

  6. yup. standard equipment in NC open cab dozers. but when I have detailed out west as HEQB it is an issue with contractors.

  7. I have an enclosed cab so I don’t wear a headset but I do have one for it. I also carry a second headset that plugs into a handheld if someone needs it while working around me, or if I am doing Dozer Boss stuff. I know some contractors who don’t like to use them but I think they are a valuable tool.

  8. Head set kits that would be used by dozed operators should be included with the radio kits that are sent out with IMT’s, good communications with Dozer operators should be a high priority.

  9. As a retired Florida Forest Service Ranger (Dozer) I felt like a custom helmet/com system like the aircrews have would be suitable, no need to reinvent the wheel, as all the electronics are standardized, available and the Com Techs and Aircrews are familiar with them and have worked the bugs out. I would also guess they are available on State/Fed bid contract as well.

  10. THANKS for all the support from the field! Now we need to bring the issue up to the folks that can make the change.
    The NWCG Risk Management Committee? Someone else? A trial period? An agency stepping up with support?
    Let’s brainstorm.
    Tim Banaszak

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