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Helmet Testing Laboratory

Research shows that safety helmets can reduce head injuries related to sports, military, law enforcement, and transportation. Motorcycle riders and passengers who wear safety helmets have reduced fatalities and serious head injuries when wearers use head gear that meets safety standards. A variety of industries look to the helmet testing laboratory at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) to ensure their products meet necessary federal, state, and industry standards. Our monorail impact test facility supports tests and evaluates safety helmets worn by athletes, motorcyclists, police, firefighters, and military personnel.

Motorcycle Helmet Testing

SwRI has tested helmets for the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) since 1974. This experience, coupled with broad experience as a research laboratory, gives SwRI a unique capability as a consultant in solving a variety of problems concerning qualification standards and performing laboratory evaluations.

DOT FMVSS No 218 & ANSI Z90.1 Standard

Motorcycle helmets are tested to determine compliance with all versions of the DOT FMVSS No 218 standard published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in addition to ANSI Z90.1. Testing services include:

Helmet Impact Testing

Helmet impact testing using monorail apparatus with flat and hemispherical anvils. Additional testing includes:

  • Penetration, with pressure tape sensing penetration failures.
  • Retention system, with provisions for permanent records of both applied load and displacement.  Loads can be varied to meet specific requirements.
  • Appropriate environmental conditioning, including ambient temperature and humidity, high temperature, low temperature, and water-immersed conditions. Special environmental conditioning requirements can be met for specific applications.

Special Testing Services

SwRI performs tests tailored to the specific needs of clients during development of new helmet designs and production. Partial evaluations to any of the sections cited above are also available. Provisions can be made to carry out this work under client observation, including the following:

  • Helmet Crash Test
  • Helmet Drop Test

Upon client request, provisions can be made to include standard and/or high-speed video of helmet testing.

Police Riot & Crash Helmets

Crash helmets are tested to determine compliance with the NILECJ-STD-105 Standard, and riot helmets and face shields are evaluated in accordance with the NILECJ-STD-104 Standard.  Included are tests for peripheral vision, impact attenuation, penetration resistance, retention system load and elongation, and face shield impact penetration.

Fire Helmets

Evaluations are made to determine compliance with NFPCA performance criteria for firefighter helmets.  Tests include load and elongation measurements on the retention system, impact attenuation, penetration resistance, flame and heat resistance, and measurement of electrical insulation.

Commercial Aviation Helmets

Testing is performed in accordance with the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Aviation Helmet Standard for Type I – Helicopter and Type II – Airplane helmets.  Tests include positional stability (Roll-off), load, and elongation measurements on the retention system, impact and sound attenuation, resistance to heat exposure, and communication equipment talk-listen evaluations.

Sports Helmet Testing

SwRI can perform sports helmet testing in accordance with specified or custom standards. Additional testing can be performed or customize for the following areas:

  • Football Helmet Testing
  • Bicycle Helmet Testing
  • Police Riot & Crash Helmets

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