Motorcycle helmet manufacturers have a deadline approaching – that’s if they want their products to bear the new Snell Memorial Foundation M2015 certification.
To make this happen, they must cease labeling new helmets that are produced with the out-going M2010 standard stickers by March 31, 2015. And to be eligible for the new M2015 standard, helmet companies also must have their products submitted to Snell Memorial Foundation for certification testing by March 31, 2015.
The certification process consists of pre-market evaluation for admission to the Foundation’s certification programs. The manufacturer submits a number of helmet samples, depending on the helmet type and Snell standard, to the Foundation for testing.
Once a helmet is certified, random sample testing is required. For that, the Foundation acquires helmet test samples directly from stocks of helmets that are meant for sale or distribution. The number of samples selected for random sample testing is based on the quantity of Snell certified helmets the manufacturer has produced. Snell staff then inspect and test each sample to verify that the helmets used by the public continue to meet the Snell standards.
Snell performance standards and testing specifications are updated every five years. The new M2015 standards were adopted in October 2013 and officially took effect in October 2014. Testing of helmets submitted for certification under the out-going M2010 standards has already ended.
The Snell Memorial Foundation is a not-for-profit organization actively engaged in research, education, testing and development of helmet safety standards since 1957. Unlike compliance with federal Department of Transportation (DOT) helmet standards (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218 or FMVSS 218), which is mandatory for all helmets intended to be sold for highway use in the U.S., compliance with Snell Foundation standards is voluntary on the part of the manufacturer.
For more, visit our motorcycle-helmet performance standards.
As a result, if you want to buy a helmet that meets Snell certification standards, you must look for the Snell certification label inside the helmet, which is usually affixed to the EPS impact-absorbing material under the comfort liner or a label attached to the retention strap. The manufacturer may also indicate that the helmet has Snell certification on the outside of the helmet, as well.
When you find the label inside, you may note that some types of helmets with Snell certification have prefix letters other than “M” in M2010 or the new M2015 standards. The prefix letters refer to the certification standards for the specific application the helmet was tested and certified for.
“M” stands for motorcycle and certain other motorsports. “SA” stands for auto racing applications—the difference being that an SA certified helmet will have been subjected to flammability testing not done to other types. “K” standards apply to helmets used in karting.
SA and K certified helmets may have less horizontal field of view—peripheral vision—opening than M standard helmets and for that reason, some of those helmets may not be legal for street use. SA and K standards also include a multi-impact test not applicable to M standards.
Snell tests helmet performance against their standards in four criteria:
1. Impact management – how well the helmet protects against collisions with large objects.
2. Helmet positional stability – whether the helmet will be in place, on the head, when it’s needed.
3. Retention system strength – whether the chin straps are sufficiently strong to hold the helmet throughout a head impact.
4. Extent of Protection – the area of the head protected by the helmet.
The new M2015 standards do not result in significant changes in the performance expectations for each helmet, but do make some changes to how testing is conducted and in labeling.
Here is how Snell Foundation documents describe the changes: “M2015 is almost identical to M2010 but there is an important difference in the enforcement testing. When samples of previously certified helmets are tested for compliance, the impact testing will be at the same impact velocities and to the same criteria prescribed for initial certification testing. If a failure is observed, three more samples will be tested at slightly lower “deviation” velocities but the test criteria will be the same as those set for certification testing.
“The requirements also demand a new ‘Certification ID#’ label in each certified unit specifying the original test series on which the certification is based. This Certification ID# consists of two alpha characters followed by four digits, a hyphen and two more digits. It identifies the test lab, record number and year of the certification. It may be found in the lower right corner of the certificate awarded when certification was granted.
“This test series information is essential to determining the correct test set up parameters for enforcement testing and for reference to the helmet sample from the original set maintained in the Foundation’s helmet archive. If the Helmet Owner can demonstrate that his products are reasonably identifiable without such labels, the Foundation may agree to waive this requirement. Any such waiver must be obtained in writing.
“Other changes include modifications to the retention strength and shell penetration test procedures. These changes will improve test reliability and repeatability but are not expected to materially affect test outcomes.”
Information published on the Snell Foundation website indicates that at this point in time, the number of helmet models and manufacturers that have secured certification under M2015 is somewhat smaller than those that had achieved certification under M2010, but testing and certification is an on-going process, so the number can be expected to increase.
The number of manufacturers that had at least one helmet model in their product line certified under Snell M2010 standards is 69; the number that has already secured M2015 certification is 27 as of this writing.
For the complete listing of helmet makes and models holding Snell Memorial Foundation certification as well as more information about the Foundation’s certification program and standards, click here.