PPE Certification for Head Protection

This article on PPE certification is specific to the head protection category of PPE, and should be read in conjunction with our general guide on product testing and PPE CE marking. This article sets out to provide an explanation of the mandatory European Legislative requirements to offer PPE Headwear.

European Norms for Headwear

hse-image-of-lady-wearing-head-protectionThe European Norm for Helmets in General Use is EN397, which sets out the performance and marking requirements for all PPE Helmets. The protection provided to the wearer is against falling objects, which could cause brain or skull injury.

Specialist Mountaineers Helmets are covered by EN12492, which includes standards on helmet retention to ensure the helmet is not inadvertently removed. Mountaineer requirements also apply to wearers working at height.

Anti-static performance is covered by EN13463-1 for use in potentially explosive environments.

Low voltage electrical insulation is covered by EN50365.

In addition to the general protection norms EN397 and EN 12492, optional performance is offered with the following protection characteristics:-

MM                             Molten Metal (applies only to unvented shell helmets)

-20°C/-30°C                 Low Temperature Performance

-40°C                           Ultra Low Temperature Performance

LD                                Lateral Deformation

F                                  Flame Resistance

440VAC/1000V AC      Electrical Insulation (applies only to unvented shell helmets.

Note this has not yet been included in EN397.

Some work environments require the application of hi-vis stickers, and these are covered by EN12899-1 Ra2., which deals with the reflective performance of the sticker material.

Many applications include helmet attachments, and these often bring different performance characteristics from the “stand alone” item to be attached. An example of this might be ear muffs, whereby a headband version and a helmet-attachment version are offered. The different mountings result in differing noise attenuation performance. These are generally covered by the standard for the attachment type, e.g. hearing, eyewear etc.

Note that different manufacturers design their attachment fixings or mountings to ensure that other manufacturers’ attachments do not fit without special adaptors. This is not just an attempt to ensure you use their attachments; it is for sound safety reasons.  In the event that helmets and attachments are fit-compatible, the performance is not guaranteed. As a general rule it is better to use the same manufacturer for helmets and attachments, unless one manufacturer offers adaptors that specifically relate to the other manufacturer’s product.

The standard governing Bump Caps is EN812, which does not confer protection against falling objects, but does offer protection against bumps and scrapes. In no circumstances should any bump cap be used if there is a risk of falling objects.

Helmet Life

Helmets are intended to provide an in-use lifespan of up to 5 years from date of first use or removal from storage. Note that mobile workers who keep their helmet on the rear parcel shelf of their vehicles in direct sunlight should be aware that this constitutes use (the sunlight causes progressive brittleness). If the helmet is used in an aggressive environment or incurs excessive wear and tear then the lifespan will be shortened. Employers should determine what sort of lifespan is appropriate for the different applications across all work environments, and ensure that a suitable replacement policy is published and applied.

In the event that a helmet survives an instance of impact from a falling object, the helmet should be replaced immediately, as it may have been weakened without any faults being visible.


In line with the shelf life of the helmet manufacturers are required to include a moulded-in indicator of time of production. This should be the quarter-year and year, or the month and year. These mouldings are often in the form of a calendar and year clock with pointers, or dots indicating the quarter-year and the year in numerals.

The CE mark is moulded in, sometimes incorporated within the date indicator, and sometimes separately according to the manufacturer in-house marking convention.

Any optional standard indicators are also moulded in (see above).

PPE Certification and Testing

Where an item of headwear bears a particular indicator of performance, then the item has been tested in line with standardised testing programmes for that performance quality and certified as complying with the EN standard.

Manufacturing includes a sampling regime for on-going testing appropriate to the hazard risk.  Such testing includes dropping a determined weight of a prescribed shape from a fixed height and measuring the force transmitted to a dummy head and observing the effects. Other tests cover applying a pre-determined lateral force and measuring the lateral deformation, molten metal non-adherence, drop testing at raised or reduced temperature, ignition in a flammability test, and electrical insulation testing at prescribed AC voltage.


For all general head protection applications EN 397 provides the performance standards and testing requirements to keep wearers protected by CE approved helmets in the workplace, backed up by testing requirements to ensure consistent manufacturing standards. If there is no risk of falling objects and not working at height then EN812 provides the standards for bump caps. Other standards are relevant for specialist applications and performance.

This in no way removes the responsibility of the employer to ensure appropriate headgear selection, user uptake, provision of training, adequate storage, and of course replacement within the lifetime of the helmet when used in each application.

To help combat the problems of non-approved and counterfeit PPE, the BSIF has created the Registered Safety Supplier (RSS) Scheme.

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0

Image: Pixabay under Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain

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Product Testing and PPE CE Marking

An explanation of PPE CE marking and the regulatory requirements that must be met in order to legitimately offer a PPE product on the European market.