A 2 Minute Guide to ECE 22.05 (Regulation No.22) for Testing of Crash Helmets

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What is ECE 22.05 (concerning the approval of protective crash helmets)?

Think of it like DOT certification but for Europe.

The ECE stands for Economic Commission for Europe and the 22 refers to Regulation No.22. The 05 part refers to a specific amendment to the regulation (yawn!). Essentially, they’re rules put in place to make sure crash helmets for sale in Europe protect the head adequately in an accident – and include info. on the tests each helmet must pass to prove they do so. The regs also cover the performance of face shields.

ECE 22.05 is the most widely respected and used regulation in the world and is endorsed and used by many countries outside Europe too: as of Nov 2015, that includes Australia.

ece-22.05-crash-helmet-label
ECE 22.05 approval label from inside an AGV

Why do they need Regulation No.22?

The rules are there to make sure if you’re buying a crash helmet to protect you on a motorcycle, then you know the helmet’s giving you at least a minimum level of protection. If there aren’t standards there, manufacturers have a tendency to push out any old tin bowl with a strap on it and claim it’ll save you from headbutting lamp posts, and you won’t have a clue if they’re telling you the truth or not until it’s too late. Regulation 22 tells manufacturers what they have to do in order to produce an effective motorcycle crash helmet and how to prove they’ve complied with the regulations (through testing and labelling). It also gives us buyers/wearers/crashers confidence we’re buying a helmet that offers us at least some protection.

Where can I read about Regulation No. 22?

Funny you should ask. It’s available as a pdf on the UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) website. Grab it by clicking this link.

So how do they test the helmets?

They test helmets in a few funky ways under a few even funkier conditions. These include testing for initial impact, rigidity, friction, chin strap strength and  ‘retention’ (making sure the helmet stays in position during impact). But while testing for these, they also subject the lids to solvents (!), low and high temperatures, ultraviolet and moisture. Testing is also supposed to be carried out using the helmet size which is determined to be weakest.

Most of that is similar to DOT however ECE testing has to be performed on all helmets for sale within the Eurozone whereas DOT is a self-certification scheme where manufacturers have to say their helmet will pass DOT – and they can then go on sale, with the OVSC carrying out sample testing.

There are separate tests for shields too, testing for scratch resistance, refraction, light transmission and field of vision.

Helmet labelling

The regs also stipulate what each helmet is and isn’t tested to provide, such as no chin protection for open faced helmets. It also shows how each helmet and shield should be labelled. For example if a helmet’s approved under regulation 22 it displays a capital E in a circle followed by a number that represents each country (see the pic above). This is followed by a series of other numbers and letters representing specifics of the type approval, approval number and production serial number.

While Regulation 22 ensures motorcycle crash helmets are fit for purpose (and labelled as such) it’s important to realise that this is only one step towards you being able to buy and use a helmet that will protect you in an accident. Crash helmets are always compromised to some extent (what’s effective in a single high speed impact isn’t the same as what’s effective in an impact that has multiple slower speed impacts and includes lots of abrasion for example). It’s also probably true to say that where there’s a helmet testing procedure to be taken (and passed) then a manufacturer’s focus tends to prioritise the passing of the test over other more practical (and effective) ways to protect the rider’s head. But then, that’s one of the drawbacks of imposing any test and arguably a drawback worth risking.

Also, one of the most important factors in reducing head injury is making sure your helmet fits properly (so see our helmet fitting guide). Finally, SHARP testing and Snell testing supplement DOT certification and the ECE 22.05 testing procedure as they find there’s a wide range in how well crash helmets perform even amongst those which pass either regulation, and which is why we focus on helmets that are DOT/ECE 22.05 approved and are Snell certified/score the highest ratings in the SHARP tests.

Let us know if you have an opinion or first hand experience of testing crash helmets in our comments section below. Of if you found this article useful, give us a thumbs up by ‘liking’ it using the sharing buttons below. Cheers!

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Phil Robertson

Sirs I applaud your work in the development of a meaningful standard for motorcycle safety equipment. In particular the reference to the ethnic head shapes and the negatives in designing for specific accident types at the detriment of other protection specifics. I now live in Australia and am an active road safety advocate. However, I feel that the powers that be here are intent on developing standards which have additional objectives over and above Road Safety initiatives. I would therefore be greatful of your thoughts on the implementation of a “penetration standard” which to my mind will be gained as… Read more »