In 2008, a market surveillance exercise was carried out in Northern Ireland to ensure compliance and safety of cycle helmets with the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 1992 with reference to BS EN 1078:1997 "Helmets for Pedal Cyclists and for Users of Skate Boards and Roller Skates."
Environmental Health Officers from 21 of the 26 district councils in Northern Ireland took part in the surveillance exercise, which was funded entirely by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills in London (BIS.)
Thirty cycle helmets were purchased and sent to two different test houses. The results indicated that generally the requirements for shock absorption capacity and effectiveness of the retention system are mainly being met, with one failure being notified for each of these parameters.
However, the results were alarming in that they showed that twenty-three out of the thirty helmets tested, failed in relation to marking or information supplied by the manufacturer or both (77%). Safety of such equipment could therefore be rendered ineffective by the absence of adequate markings or other information.
Of most concern was that twelve of the helmets sampled did not have a label carrying the instructions 'this helmet should not be used by children while climbing or doing other activities where there is a risk of hanging if the child gets trapped with the helmet.' In relation to information supplied by the manufacturer, seven helmets failed to have a statement of the danger of modifying or removing any of the original component parts of the helmet other than as recommended by the manufacturer, and that helmets should not be adapted for the purpose of fitting accessories in a way not recommended by the manufacturer. A further four helmets did not state that the helmet should be adjusted to fit the user.
Action taken as a result of the failures included local withdrawal of products, liaison with Home Authorities (local authorities who have formed a partnership arrangement with the businesses to provide advice and preventative guidance on safety,) testing by the companies of helmets that failed in relation to shock absorption and retention system effectiveness.
A report on the findings of the surveillance exercise was subsequently produced and formally presented to BIS in London in June 2009. Copies of the report will be made available to safety organisations and enforcement bodies, and may be requested via our Contact Us page.
At the request of BIS, Mrs Pauline Herbison (Principal EHO) and Mrs Helena Quinn (Senior EHO), who coordinated the market surveilance exercise, then attended a meeting of the Administration Coordination Working Group for Personal Protective Equipment in November 2009, in Prague, to present their findings to European Member States.