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Keeping Your Head - Intact

Published: 10th Jan 2007


The importance of head protection certification

The whole point of protective headwear is that it is just that - a protection, a safeguard, something that is designed to lessen the effect of certain incidents.

Hazards against which you may need to provide head protection equipment would usually include impact from falling or flying objects, risk of head bumping or hair entanglement; most of these can be addressed by wearing a helmet or bump cap.

Whatever the form of the protection, when it is needed it has to perform its task and therefore it must be 100% reliable otherwise it has no purpose whatsoever. When needed your head protection must contribute to saving your life and protecting your head and its vital organs from superficial wounding or more serious injuries.

What should I look for in head protection?

According to the Health and Safety Executive guide to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at Work Regulations 1992 you should consider the following:

  • Is it appropriate for the risks involved and the conditions at the place where exposure to the risk may occur?
  • Does it prevent or adequately control the risks involved without increasing the overall level of risk or introducing any new risk?
  • Can it be adjusted to fit the wearer correctly?
  • Has the state of health of those who will be wearing it been taken into account?
  • What are the needs of the job and the demands it places on the wearer?
  • If more than one item of PPE is being worn, are they compatible?

So how do you know if your head protection product is up to the job?

Testing and Certification is the answer. Knowing that your product has been tested to the latest standards will give you the greatest possible assurance that it will perform when required to do so.

Protective headwear is expected to be safe and fit for its stated purpose. This minimum expectation is demanded by manufacturers, distributors, legislators and users alike and the way to identify tested pieces is to look for the relevant standard number on the product.

Standards play a vital role in today’s health and safety conscious world by ensuring that products designed to protect and ensure safety are thoroughly tested. As a general guide, the majority of standards include testing for:

  • Safety critical construction aspects, including field of vision
  • Shock absorbing properties
  • Retention system properties, including chin strap and fastening devices
  • Penetration requirements
  • Product marking and information

Some products may even be tested for durability of components. Tests for resistance to radiant heat, flame resistance and electrical properties are specified where these are critical elements in either the task the product has to perform or the environment in which is has to provide protection.

By European law, most types of Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE) products must carry the CE mark. This means that they have to be evaluated against certain essential safety and performance criteria specified in the European New Approach Directive. All testing of intermediate and complex category products has to be commissioned by a Notified Body (such as BSI) and conducted by them or an independent body.

As most types head protection products to be sold in Europe have to be tested the CE mark itself does not help differentiate one product from another. What can help is if the testing has been done by an independent test facility such as the British Standards Institution (BSI).

Who does this testing?

As a Notified Body for 17 of the European New Approach Directives, holder of one of the largest scopes of accreditation by the United Kingdom Accreditation Services (UKAS) and being part of the BSI Group, Product Services is one of the most well known testing and certification facility in Europe. For over forty years, BSI Product Services has been testing and certifying PPE products in its dedicated Impact Protection Laboratory which is, incidentally, a UK Approved Body of the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) for the testing and approval of vehicle user helmets and their associated visors. In this laboratory, apart from safety assessments of the constructional and user information, tests are carried out where the helmet is dropped from varying heights to simulate someone falling, objects are dropped onto helmets to simulate hazards from flying objects, helmets are exposed to weathering and conditioning tests plus the chin straps are tested for strength and application suitability. As one of the biggest and most renowned testing and certification facilities in this sector BSI Product Services has tested the vast majority of protective helmet types including those for the emergency services, professional sports helmets motor cyclists helmets, general vocational and recreational helmets, riot helmets, police helmets and horse riding helmets.

To identify potential problem areas during the design and development stage, BSI Product Services can help manufacturers in their production of products that are compliant with the correct legislation from the outset and thereby helps avoid costly re-design or modification costs at a later date. BSI offers a comprehensive range of testing and certification services to enable manufacturers to confidently apply CE marking to indicate that their head protection products comply with the PPE Directive (89/686/EEC).

Kitemark® assurance - one step further...

Going one step further however are the BSI Kitemark schemes for PPE. A Kitemark scheme involves the assessment of the manufacturer’s quality management system (ISO 9000 or similar) plus the product is tested to the relevant standard. Providing that both demonstrate that the overall manufacturing process is sufficiently robust, efficient and reliable to produce the same high quality every time, the manufacturer can be awarded a Kitemark licence. The world-renowned Kitemark has been associated with quality, integrity and trust since its birth in 1903. No other organisation can issue this prestigious symbol of quality that is the Kitemark.

What is the BSI Kitemark®?

The Kitemark is one of the most respected product quality marks in the world, demonstrating that a wide range of products from lighting to fire extinguishers conform to standards, ensuring that vital safety and performance requirements are met. The Kitemark is highly effective in the UK and overseas, where it appears on products ranging from fire fighting equipment in New Zealand to copper pipes in China and building products in the Middle East.

The word Kitemark and the Kitemark symbol are registered trade marks of BSI. A combination of a quality based system, such as BS EN ISO 9001 or a similar quality system, with advanced product/service testing provide the basis for a Kitemark scheme offering trust, integrity and quality.

Research* shows that 82% of the UK adult population recognise the Kitemark. Of those who are aware of the Kitemark 93% believe that a Kitemark product is safer.

Head protection standards...

There are currently several standards that can affect protective headwear and your business will need to provide head protection to staff in a variety of different roles whether you are a large multinational or a small company with a few staff.

If your employees drive or ride in or on heavy vehicles, motor cycles, sports cars or bicycles competitively or otherwise - they will need head protection that meets a standard. If they are professional sports people or emergency services operators they will need head protection that meets the standard. If your employees work on a construction or development site, around heavy machinery or vehicles they are likely to need head protection that meets the required standard. If they work with industrial processes they may need several types of head protection all in one.

By now you can clearly see how far-reaching the need for head protection is and how these needs are drafted into national, European or international standards.

Risk and reward

Everyone is in the risk management business today. In the current climate, where employees are continually being encouraged to sue employers for accidents at work, business leaders need to off-set such liabilities.

With greater and greater attention being drawn to Health and Safety at work issues worldwide, the onus of protection is falling more at the feet of employers. Now it is a case of protecting your employees to protect your business as the issues of litigation and compensation raise more concerns than before and need proper risk management strategies in place to offset them. As part of such a risk management strategy, the selection, allocation and implementation of the use of protective headwear forms a crucial part for many industries and businesses. If there is a potential for injury there is a need for protective head wear. However, it should be noted that purchasing to a standard does not necessarily satisfy all the requirements of Regulation 6 – Assessment of PPE and before purchasing any PPE, specifiers should consult the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992. These contain 14 regulations for employers to consider as part of their pre-purchase risk assessment.

BS EN 1077:1996 Specification for helmets for alpine skiers
BS EN 1078:1997 Helmets for pedal cyclists and for users of skateboards and roller skates
BS EN 1080:1997 Impact protection helmets for young children
BS EN 12492:2000 Mountaineering equipment. Helmets for mountaineers.
BS EN 13484: 2002 Helmets for users of luges
BS EN 13781:2002 Protective helmets for drivers and passengers of snowmobiles and bobsleighs
BS EN 1385:1998 Helmets for canoeing and white water sports
BS EN 14052:2005 High performance industrial helmets
BS EN 14572:2005 High performance helmets for equestrian activities
BS EN 996:1996 Helmets for airborne sports
BS EN ISO 10256:2003 Head and face protection for use in ice hockey
BS EN 397:1995 Specification for industrial safety helmets
BS EN 443:1997 Helmets for fire fighters
BS EN 1384:1997 Specification for helmets for equestrian activities
BS EN 812:1998 Industrial bump caps
UNITED NATIONS DOCUMENT: ECE Regulation 22.05 series of amendments specifies regulations for the uniform provisions concerning the approval of protective helmets and their visors for drivers and passengers of motor cycles and mopeds.
BRITISH STANDARDS: BS6658:1985 Protective helmets for vehicle usersBS 7928:1998 Specification for head protectors for cricketers
BSI ISSUED PUBLICLY AVAILABLE SPECIFICATIONS (PAS): These documents are not full British standards but exist to provide an effective document against which particular products and services can be assessed.
PAS 015:1999 Helmets for equestrian use
PAS 016:1995 Integrated protection helmets
PAS 017 Riot Helmets
PAS 028:2002 Marine safety helmets

What do the Regulations require?

The main requirement of the PPE at Work Regulations 1992 is that personal protective equipment is to be supplied and used at work wherever there are risks to health and safety that cannot be adequately controlled in other ways.

The Regulations also require that PPE:

  • Is properly assessed before use to ensure it is suitable
  • Is maintained and stored properly
  • Is provided with instructions on how to use it safely
  • Is used correctly by employees

Selecting your protective products can be made easier by looking for the approvals, test and certification marks. Manufacturers should also be looking to go one step further and obtain the BSI Kitemark for their products to help them stand out from the crowd. In a recent survey* of 1,000 consumers in the UK 75% said that the presence of the Kitemark helped them to choose between products and 93% felt that Kitemark products were safer. As a voluntary mark the Kitemark demonstrates that the manufacturer has opted to raise their product standard to meet the more substantial requirements of a Kitemark scheme. In so doing they can honestly stand above non Kitemark products.

Health & safety training and guidance

As part of the BSI Group, Business Information offers guidance books and DVDs on a wide range of health and safety issues that affect the workplace. For more information on these please call BSI Customer Services on +44 (0) 20 8996 9001 or visit the website at

According to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA), there are still 1.6 million workplace injuries in the UK every year and 70% of workplace accidents would be prevented if employers put proper safety control measures in place.

For the safety of you, your employees and your business be serious about safety and provide the best head protection possible.


* GfK NOP UK Consumer Survey July 2006

Published: 10th Jan 2007 in Health and Safety International

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