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UN ECE 22-05 versus AS/NZS 1698:2006

Differences between these two helmet types include:-

These differences arise from a different philosophy of HOW to protect the head in an impact and quite different legal and regulatory administrative processes to ensure that only soundly made and Certified helmets reach the market. Both are effective helmets.
In any case, in Australia, it is the seller of a helmet who is held responsible for ensuring that the claim of Certificationcan be substantiated as valid

i.e. you have consumer law protections if you purchase your helmet from a shop in Australia.
If you buy online from overseas, you have no consumer protections, nor can you try the helmet for fit.

Technical differences

UN ECE 22-05 helmets

AS/NZS 1698

Regulatory differences

UN/ECE 22-05
Firstly, UN/ECE 22-05 is a Regulation under law of the various European jurisdictions. Australia is represented on the Working Party that oversees UN/ECE 22-05 and other UN Regulations governing vehicle standards. A claim of compliance with UN/ECE 22-05 must be able to be substantiated to the ACCC.

A manufacturer is required to submit all test results and assessments to their government authority for approval and homologation before any helmets can be offered for sale. Additional batch testing must also be submitted for on-going maintenance of their approval status (“surveillance of production”).

UN/ECE 22-05 contains specified requirements and a regulatory process at these three different stages:-

  1. Type Test (to prove the product design meets the standard) [Paras 6 & 7]
  2. Production Qualification (to prove the production system is capable of producing successive compliant product)[Para 9.1]
  3. Product Surveillance or “batch testing” (to prove that the on-going products are compliant) [Para 10.5.1]

AS/NZS 1698:2006 sets out only a technical specification.
Compliance to the Australian Standard is a private matter between the manufacturer or importer and the Certification business. No regulatory requirements define the manner of Certification. Each Certifier creates their own certification scheme.

Table. Comparison of the motorcycle helmet certification process used by a major European helmet manufacturer for UN/ECE 22.05 and AS/NZS 1698 motorcycle helmets.

Compliance FolderUN/ECE 22-05AS/NZS 1698Type Test ReportXXQualification of ProductionX-Certificate of ConformityXXProduction Surveillance TestsXX[Para][varies by CAB]Yearly TestsXX [varies by CAB]Factory Audit CertificateXXConformity Audit CertificateXXComponent Quality ControlXX

A certification scheme must include how the certified product can maintain its certification after initial certification is granted. Batch testing does not substitute for initial assessment of compliance. By necessity, batch test sampling rates are very low. Batch testing alone cannot determine reliability of production for compliance and is not a substitute.

Historical notes:

In ancient times, helmet construction and shape were copied from those worn by survivors in battle.

Modern helmet standards are “performance based”, meaning they must pass certain tests designed to mimic the type of impact likely to be incurred in a motorcycle crash.

The first person to relate injury to specific mechanical impacts was Hugh Cairns from Port Pirie, South Australia. In the late 1930’s, Cairns was a young neurosurgeon studying in Britain when T.E. Lawrence was brought in on a stretcher after crashing his Brough Superior. Otherwise uninjured, Lawrence died of an internal head injury. Cairns took an interest in helmets and worked with British Army despatch riders.

Dr. Cairns began relating mechanical behaviour of crash helmets to mechanisms of head and brain injury. His work was taken up by others and after World War II the Ministry of Transport in Great Britain put serious effort into crash helmets.

This effort resulted in the world’s first performance based helmet standards:-

Performance standards were a new concept. Previous specifications defined objects in terms of their materials, dimensions and production. Performance standards define helmets in terms of their function. Instead of describing the helmet, performance standards told how to test them.

UN/ECE 22-05
UN ECE 22-05 dates from 1958 and has been updated on a regular basis as new evidence has been confirmed by research. In 1995, UN ECE 22 was amended to remove the shell penetration test and replace it with a shell integrity test. This had the effect of making helmets lighter. Research had suggested that helmets weighing more than 1.5 kg were implicated in more serious neck injury. A very extensive helmet research program(COST 327) across multiple countries followed up on the ECE 22 amendment (COST 327), concluding that the amendment was sound and producing excellent public health outcomes for crashed, helmeted riders.

AS/NZS 1698:2006
AS/NZS 1698:2006 is based on a 1968 Standard developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI Z.90). In fact, ANSI Z.90 is the basis for the national standards of the USA (FMVSS-218) and Japan (JIS T8133).

USA (Jan), Japan (May) and Australia (Sept) all adopted ANSI Z.90 in 1974. Minor changes to each, mean that while similar, they are not identical and require different labels. As a result, each country limits market access to their own label.

UN/ECE 22-05 not only ensures an excellent helmet, it also allows harmonisation of markets, reducing protectionism.