Helmet Safety: What does ASTM/SEI mean?

There are may excuses for not wearing a helmet when you ride, but are any of them good reasons?  The quietest, most well trained horse can cause injury and wearing a helmet will help protect the one part of your body which cannot be repaired – your brain.  So, when you go into that tack shop to purchase your helmet, look for the ASTM/SEI certified label.

The label ASTM/SEI certified has become commonplace in safety helmets over the past several years, but there are few riders who know what those acronyms stand for, let alone what’s required to earn that seal of approval.

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) is an organization that was formed in 1898 by chemists and engineers from the Pennsylvania Railroad.  At that time, the organization was known as the American Section of the International Association Testing and Materials.  Mr. Charles B. Dudley, PhD., a chemist with the Pennsylvania Railroad was the driving force behind the formation of the Society.  In 2001, the Society became known as ASTM.  The ASTM Mission Statement is to promote public health and safety, support the protection and sustainability of the environment, and the overall quality of life…

There are different tests designed for specific sports but to earn the equestrian riding helmet certification, there are four tests the helmet must pass.  These tests are performed by the Safety Equipment Institute (SEI) to ensure that helmets ar3e being manufactured to standards that meet or exceed the ASTM standards.

Objective : to verify the even distribution of the shock wave in order to limit the risks of traumatism.

Objective : to verify that a sharp object will not pierce the helmet

Objective : to verify that the helmet stays on in the event of a fall and that the harness strap system is not too long.

Objective : to verify the flexibility of the visor to prevent nasal fracture in the event of a fall.

According to Dru Malavase, who served on the ASTM’s equestrian protective headgear committee since 1984, during the Round Anvil Test, the helmets are dropped onto a flat anvil from a height of about six feet from several angles and directions. “Computer sensors measure the sock from the fall that is transferred to the inside of a helmet in terms of gravity force (g).  The threshold at which the most serious head injuries occur is 300g.”  The Pointed Anvil Test simulates the impact of the side of a jump or a horse’s hoof.  During the Helmet Retention Test, all straps must hold the helmet on the head without stretching beyond a certain amount.  Then, all helmets are retested again for concussion and retention after being frozen to minus 20 degrees, heated to over 120 degrees and submerged in water overnight.  If the helmet still transfers no more than 300g and the strap is still effective, it earns the ASTM/SEI seal of approval.

“With all we put riding helmets through around the barn,” says Malavase, “we have to know that they are still going to protect us.”

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  1. […] number one safety item that everyone should wear is an approved fitting helmet ensuring that the helmet is fitted properly and will stay on in case of a spill.My mother’s […]

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