Safety testing is conducted to ensure that helmets meet one or more international safety standards.
The amount of times a batch of riding helmets is tested varies between the different certifications. The BSI Kitemark checks one of every 200 helmets from a batch of 800 to 3,200 before they will issue an approval label. If the helmets do not pass the standard, then the entire batch must be destroyed.
SEI (Safety Equipment Institute, based outside Washington, DC) will test a batch every 12 months to ensure quality. All of the certification schemes require the helmets to pass an initial design test. The CE mark (the European safety certification scheme) does not require any further testing after initial approval unless the helmet is modified from its original design.
Helmets are traditionally tested by measuring the peak acceleration of a helmeted steel head form falling onto a flat steel surface from a specified height. Other tests include a drop onto a steel edge or, in the case of the SNELL E2001 test, a drop onto a metal ball. Some standards also measure crush resistance, stability and field of vision.
For leading manufacturers, these tests are only the start of analyzing how a helmet will perform in the real world. At Charles Owen’s design headquarters in the UK, advanced computer simulation is used to understand how to maximize the dissipation of energy from an impact by using complex combinations of cutting edge materials to ensure even more comprehensive protection in each helmet produced.