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Monday, August 6, 2012

Snell Helmet Certifications for the Racer


The Snell Foundation was established to conduct tests and establish guidelines on helmets. If you compete in any type of motorsports, your track and/or sanctioning body probably specify that you use a "Snell" approved helmet.

We are mainly concerned with 2 types of Snell classifications, the "M" and the "SA". The "M" helmets are designed for motorcycle safety. The "SA" or "Sports Application" helmets are designed for auto racing safety.

Some forms of auto racing will permit an "M" helmet. Some "M" rated helmets look similar to and are usually half the cost of an "SA" model, so why spend the extra money?

1) SA Helmets have to pass a flammability test, so the interior liners and the chin strap are constructed from fire retardant materials. The lining material and chin strap in an M helmet can ignite when exposed to flame.
2) SA Helmets have to pass a roll bar impact test. This ensures the helmet is capable of spreading the impact on a roll bar over a wider load, hopefully, reducing the chance of injury.  
3) On full face helmets, the face shield must pass a flame resistance test. The shield must self extinguish when flame is removed and the shield must also withstand a "burn through" time period.
4) The face shield has to have a positive lock down to help prevent accidental opening.

A new Snell classification is the "SAH" or the SAH2010. These are approved SA2010 helmets with the M6 sized threads installed and tested with a head and neck restraint. Only the top echelons of auto racing require the SAH helmet certification. The standard SA2010 helmet can be used with a head and neck restraint and many are predrilled for this purpose.

There is also a "K" classification. The "K" helmets are for kart racers and they have to pass all impact tests, but no flammability tests. "K" helmets may or may not contain flame retardant liners and chin strap, but the Snell Foundation does not conduct testing to verify.  

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