All head protection (helmets) must be CE marked, and can be considered either Complex or Intermediate under the PPE directive.
Testing of head protection equipment is typically carried out on the whole product as presented for sale, with testing intended to cover the range of user sizes over which the helmet is intended to cover. Where products claim a range of sizes, this will usually mean repeating tests using both the smallest and largest size within a range.
The key components to be considered in protecting the wearer’s head is to ensure the shock (usually measured in terms of the acceleration) to the head is minimized. This usually means utilising a material such as foam to gradually absorb the movement experienced in an impact, thus reducing the acceleration of the head contained within. The type of material most suitable will typically depend on the type of helmet, based on the type of hazard expected – for instance, a soft foam can absorb smaller shock loads (such as impacts from a projectile such as a ball) and return to its original shape for further use, whereas larger shock loads (such as impacts likely to be experienced by a cyclist impacting the tarmac) will require a non-elastic harder foam, which will not return following impact.
As helmets are often worn next to the wearer’s skin and hair, additional consideration should always be paid to the innocuousness (chemical safety) of the materials used in the manufacture of helmets. Assessment of these materials will typically form part of the EC type examination process.