Testing motorcyclists' PPE
Investigating the legislation affecting the sales of such products within Europe and the assessments required to gain the necessary certification.
Clothing worn by motorcyclists is often expected to perform a number of different functions. For instance, some wearers may rely on it to keep them warm and dry, while other riders may even be looking for the clothing to improve their visibility to other traffic. What should always be important to every rider, however, is that such clothing is capable of providing some protection against physical injury from minor impacts and abrasion in the event of an accident.
Motorcycle clothing which is designed to provide protection to the wearer and is to be placed on the European market is covered by the recently-published European Regulation on PPE (personal protective equipment). It must therefore be certified before it can be sold in Europe. Motorcyclists’ helmets are excluded from these particular regulations.
Certification of motorcycle PPE
Europe is currently taking the lead in the setting of safety standards for motorcyclists’ protective clothing, and there is a technical committee working group within CEN (the European Standards Body) that is devoted to this specialised work. The committee
(CEN/TC162/WG9) was formed over 20 years ago and since then has developed several safety standards for motorcycle rider protection. At present, manufacturers have a choice of standards to use in demonstrating compliance with the requirements of the PPE Regulation, depending on the intended end use of the products.
EN 13595 includes a wide variety of tests intended to assess the protection and integrity of the clothing ensemble and has been formatted into four parts. Part 1 includes the requirements and the examination procedures of the clothing, while parts 2 to 4 describe laboratory testing procedures for three of the specialised tests – impact abrasion, seam burst strength and impact cut.
This standard is intended for products used by a professional rider – defined as ‘a person who is employed to provide or contracts to perform for reward, the services requiring the riding of a motorcycle’. The standard does not cover protection worn by competitors in motorsport competition events.
EN 13595-1:2002 – ‘Protective clothing for professional motorcycle riders – jackets, trousers and one-piece or divided suits’ is primarily concerned with the protection provided against injuries in accidents and contain two performance levels:
Level 1: Clothing designed to give some protection while having the lowest possible weight and ergonomic penalties associated with use.
Level 2: Clothing providing a moderate level of protection, higher than that provided by level 1. There are, however, weight and restriction penalties in providing this level of protection.
The standard contains different performance requirements for different zones of a garment, using four risk categories. Zone 1 areas indicate a high risk of impacts, zones 1 and 2 are at high risk of abrasion, zone 3 areas are at moderate risk of abrasion and zone 4 areas are at low risk of abrasion damage.
The abrasion resistance of the products is assessed using an impact abrasion test, which is detailed in part 2 of the standard. The equipment used is often referred to as the ‘Cambridge’ machine, and the test involves the specimen being dropped through a distance of 50mm onto a 60-grit abrasive belt moving at a speed of 8m/s (approximately 18mph). This simulates the clothing coming into contact with a road surface as the rider falls from a moving motorcycle. The test ends when the specimen is holed, which is indicated by the breaking of an electrified wire that is placed underneath the test specimen. The abrasive power of the belt is assessed using two layers of a standard reference fabric and the time that the specimen takes to abrade to a hole is corrected following calibration procedures carried out at the time of testing. The impact abrasion test is relevant to incidents when the rider falls from the motorcycle and slides along the road or riding surface. It was developed following studies of real accidents.
The standard also contains performance requirements for tear and burst strength, impact energy resistance, protector restraint, dimensional stability from washing, resistance to cleaning, fit resistance and ergonomic assessments.
Parts 1 to 6 of a second standard – PrEN 17092:2018 – ‘Protective clothing for motorcycle riders’, are currently in the final stages of development, and are expected to be published early next year. This standard, which is primarily concerned with the protection provided against injuries in accidents, will include all clothing marketed as ‘protective clothing for motorcyclists’. It will therefore cover jackets and trousers, as well as one- and two-piece suits, and will include a wide variety of tests intended to assess the protection and integrity of the clothing ensemble. Part 1 describes the test and examination procedures of the clothing, while parts 2 to 6 detail the requirements for garments in five performance classes: ‘AAA’, ‘AA’, ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’.
Class AAA garments provide the highest level of protection from impacts and abrasion, but they may have limiting ergonomic, weight and thermal penalties for some riding activities. Examples of this type of garment are one-piece or two-piece suits.
Class AA garments offer protection from impacts and abrasion which the rider may face from the greatest diversity of riding activities, and they may have lower ergonomic and weight penalties than class AA garments. Such garments are intended to be worn by themselves or over other clothes.
Class A garments protect against impacts and abrasion and are expected to have the least ergonomic and weight penalties. Examples of these are garments intended ‘to be worn by themselves or over other clothes by riders in warm environments’.
Class B is for specialised garments, designed to provide the equivalent abrasion protection of those in class A but without the inclusion of impact protectors. As a result, they do not offer impact protection. Examples include modular garments suitable to be combined with other garments to provide impact protection.
Class C is for specialised non-shell, impact protector ensemble garments. They are designed only to hold one or more impact protectors in place, either as an undergarment or an overgarment.
The EN 17092 standard defines risk assessment zones against impacts, abrasion and tearing of each garment as follows:
Zone 1: The areas of the motorcyclists’ protective garments that have a high risk of damage.
Zone 2: Areas which have a moderate risk of damage.
Zone 3: The areas that have a low risk of damage.
The abrasion resistance of the products is assessed using an impact abrasion test as detailed in part 1 of the standard on equipment that is often referred to as the ‘Darmstadt’ machine. The test simulates the stress that is placed on the protective garments when worn by an average rider – with a body mass of 75kg and a height of 1.75m – when sliding from variable initial speeds to standstill on a road surface. In one run, three specimens of the material are mounted in holders attached to rotating arms positioned above a concrete tile (to represent the road surface). To pass, no holes with an opening of 5mm or more in any direction are to be present on the layer closest to the body. The standard also contains performance requirements for tear and seam strength, protector restraint, dimensional stability from washing, resistance to cleaning, fit resistance and ergonomic assessments.
To create a full ensemble, the rider is likely to complete the outfit with specialised gloves and footwear, and additional standards cover these products.
EN 13594:2015 – ‘Protective gloves for professional motorcycle riders. Requirements and test methods’, is a specialised standard used for assessing the level of protection provided by a glove during a potential accident while motorcycle riding. Where possible, the standard draws on established tests such as those in EN 388. In addition, it includes several particular tests to measure properties such as abrasion resistance following an impact using the aforementioned Cambridge machine and, where applicable, the force transmitted through the glove’s protective padding.
EN 13634:2017 – ‘Protective footwear for motorcycle riders. Requirements and test methods’ includes testing of impact cut resistance and abrasion resistance of the upper using tests defined in EN 13595. The outsole components of the footwear must be tested for resistance to abrasion and hydrolysis (if made from polyurethane), plus an assessment of the strength of any interlayer bonds. There are also requirements for the design of the cleats and overall thickness of the outsole. Tests on the upper, lining and insole components of the boot include tear strength and abrasion resistance for linings, and abrasion resistance and water absorption/desorption for insole boards.
There are five optional properties that can be tested if the manufacturer wishes to make specific claims. These include impact energy protection to the shin and ankle, resistance to water penetration, resistance to fuel oil of the outsole, slip resistance of the outsole, and water vapour permeability of the upper.
A separate standard – EN 1621 – covers impact protectors which are intended to provide some protection against injury caused by impacts with road surfaces in motorcycle accidents. These products may also slightly reduce the injuries caused by impacts with objects, such as other vehicles. The parts of the standard are as follows:
- EN 1621-1:2012 – ‘Requirements and test methods for impact protectors test used to assess the protective qualities of armour worn on the limb joints’.
- EN 1621-2:2014 – ‘Motorcyclists' protective clothing against mechanical impact. Part 2: motorcyclists' back protectors’.
- EN 1621-3:2018 – ‘Motorcyclists' protective clothing against mechanical impact. Part 3: Motorcyclists’ chest protectors – Requirements and test methods’.
- EN 1621-4:2013 – ‘Motorcyclists' protective clothing against mechanical impact. Part 4: Motorcyclists' inflatable protectors – Requirements and test methods.
Two performance levels are specified for protectors. These are ‘level 1’ for protectors designed to give protection while having low ergonomic penalties associated with their use, and ‘level 2’, for protectors providing an increased protection with respect to level 1. There may be, however, weight and restriction penalties associated with level 2 protection.
Choice of protection
The only protection motorcyclists involved in road traffic accidents have against injury is the clothing and protective equipment that they are wearing at the time. They are exposed to a range of hazards while riding, and it is impractical to protect from all of these without seriously affecting the ability to ride ‘adequately’. With the range of standards and the associated levels of protection available for the manufacturer to test and certify against, the motorcyclist has the ability to select the garments that provide the appropriate level of protection for his or her chosen activity.
SATRA is planning a special webinar on motorcyclists’ PPE – please click here for full details.
How can we help?
Please contact SATRA’s PPE testing team (firstname.lastname@example.org) for assistance with the testing of motorcyclists’ protective garments.
This article was originally published on page 26 of the October 2019 issue of SATRA Bulletin.