A 2 Minute Guide to ECE 22.05 (Regulation No.22) for Testing of Crash Helmets

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What is ECE 22.05 (concerning the approval of protective crash helmets)?

The ECE stands for Economic Commission for Europe and the 22 refers to Regulation No.22. The 05 part refers to a specific amendment to the regulation (yawn!). Essentially, they’re rules put in place to make sure crash helmets for sale in Europe protect the head adequately in an accident – and include info. on the tests each helmet must pass to prove they do so. The regs also cover the performance of visors, chin straps and protective chin guards.

ECE 22.05 is the most widely respected and used regulation in the world and is endorsed and used by many countries outside Europe too: as of Nov 2015, that includes most states in Australia.

ece-22.05-crash-helmet-label
ECE 22.05 approval label from inside an AGV

Why do we need Regulation No.22?

The rules are there to make sure if you’re buying a crash helmet to protect you on a motorcycle, then you know the helmet’s giving you at least a minimum level of protection. If there aren’t standards there, manufacturers have a tendency to push out any old tin bowl with a strap on it and claim it’ll save you from headbutting lamp posts, and you won’t have a clue if they’re telling you the truth or not until it’s too late. Regulation 22 tells manufacturers what they have to do in order to produce an effective motorcycle crash helmet and how to prove they’ve complied with the regulations (through testing and labelling). It also gives us buyers/wearers/crashers confidence we’re buying a helmet that offers us at least some protection.

Where can I read about Regulation No. 22?

Funny you should ask. It’s available as a pdf on the UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) website. Grab it by clicking this link.

So how do they test the helmets?

They test helmets in a few funky ways under a few even funkier conditions. These include testing for initial impact, rigidity, friction, chin strap strength and  ‘retention’ (making sure the helmet stays in position during impact). But while testing for these, they also subject the lids to various environmental conditions to make sure they carry on protecting wherever we go. That includes subjecting helmets to solvents (!), low and high temperatures, ultraviolet, humidity and moisture. Testing is also supposed to be carried out using the helmet size which is determined to be weakest.

They test the chinstrap to make sure it won’t slip loose, stretch or break under load. They test the visor for  scratch resistance, refraction, light transmission and field of vision.

On the helmet itself, they test impact resistance at various points around the helmet including the crown and chin guard. And they test the reflectiveness of safety stickers too.

And once they’re done testing, they test some more – taking a batch of large and small sized helmets from the first production batch as well as continuously testing throughout the production run.

So you can see, you don’t pass the ECE test easily and unlike the US DOT certification, every helmet has to undergo testing. With DOT, each manufacturer agrees to comply with safety testing but only a selection of lids are chosen to undergo testing to ensure they comply (if they don’t they’re hit with heavy fines).

Helmet labelling

The regs also stipulate what protection each helmet provides and tests/certifies only that protection – such as no chin protection for open faced helmets. It also shows how each helmet and visor should be labelled. For example if a helmet’s approved under regulation 22 it displays a capital E in a circle followed by a number that represents each country (see the pic above). This is followed by a series of other numbers and letters representing specifics of the type approval, approval number and production serial number.

While Regulation 22 ensures motorcycle crash helmets are fit for purpose (and labelled as such) it’s important to realise that this is only one step towards you being able to buy and use a helmet that will protect you in an accident. Crash helmets are always compromised to some extent (what’s effective in a single high speed impact isn’t the same as what’s effective in an impact that has multiple slower speed impacts and includes lots of abrasion for example). It’s also probably true to say that where there’s a helmet testing procedure to be taken (and passed) then a manufacturer’s focus tends to prioritise the passing of the test over other more practical (and effective) ways to protect the rider’s head. But then, that’s one of the drawbacks of imposing any test and arguably a drawback worth risking.

Also, one of the most important factors in reducing head injury is making sure your helmet fits properly (so see our helmet fitting guide).

P, J & NP labeling and flip-up helmets

When you buy a modular helmet, you probably hope that it’s going to work as a full face helmet when the chin guard’s down. But not all are designed like that – or approved to work as a full face. When they are, they’ll be labelled as both J (open face) and P (protective chin guard) inside the helmet and usually on the label sewn into the chin strap. That’s sometimes called dual homologation. Click the link to see all our helmet previews and reviews of dual homologated helmets or read here for more information.

dual homologated flip up helmet label
ECE accreditation and country code in the circle, serial numbers and type approval shown below – including J/P designation

If it has a chin guard that’s not designed and approved to offer protection, it’ll have the label NP inside.

Finally, SHARP testing supplements the ECE 22.05 testing procedure as they find there’s a wide range in how well crash helmets perform even amongst those which pass Regulation 22, and which is why we focus on helmets that are ECE 22.05 approved and score the highest ratings in the SHARP tests.

 

Let us know if you have an opinion or first hand experience of testing crash helmets in our comments section below. Of if you found this article useful, give us a thumbs up by ‘liking’ it using the sharing buttons below. Cheers!

2 COMMENTS

  1. Sirs I applaud your work in the development of a meaningful standard for motorcycle safety equipment. In particular the reference to the ethnic head shapes and the negatives in designing for specific accident types at the detriment of other protection specifics.

    I now live in Australia and am an active road safety advocate. However, I feel that the powers that be here are intent on developing standards which have additional objectives over and above Road Safety initiatives. I would therefore be greatful of your thoughts on the implementation of a “penetration standard” which to my mind will be gained as a trade off against other positive areas of protection.

    It is my belief that the development of specific standards for the Australian market is a retrograde step with adverse affects. Australia is a multicultural society and as such has a plethora of different ethnic genes. It would therefore be far more appropriate to adopt those standards currently accepted throughout the word as an acceptable standard fircAustealia. This would enable immigrants to select helmets specifically designed for a specific market more suited to themselves.

    My interest is generated as there is currently a movement to develope an Australian Standard for motorcycle protective wear when to my mind standards are presently in use else wear which are perfectly adequate.

    • Cheers Phil – Woah, that’s a biggie. I guess my thoughts are that, as a buyer of a crash helmet, you need to do your research and try on different helmets to make sure it’s a correct fit (I wrote an article on helmet shell sizes and also a helmet fitting guide to try and help people help themselves). I personally think it’s up to the industry to provide the information, and the users to find that information, try the helmets before they buy and that way they’ll get a correctly fitting helmet. There’s lots of information out there if buyers look and if you really want, and with little effort, it’s perfectly possible to buy a helmet that is US and EU standard approved and scores highly in ‘independent’ testing – such as SHARP – whether or not there’s an Australian standard in addition. But as you imply, but there are several countries that piggy back on European or US standards as both, while they have their detractors, are pretty well thought through and monitored. But you know how it is – politicians love to tinker!

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