Published January 2023
This guidance is designed to support members with making reasonable and safe adjustments for members who would struggle to wear conventional helmets designed for activities, and to support members more widely with information and advice relating to helmets.
When are helmets required?
Activity rules within Chapter 9 of POR identify when helmets are required to be worn by members and the circumstances in which exemption from wearing a helmet is permitted.
POR states helmets must be worn when taking part in the following activities:-
- Climbing & abseiling (in certain circumstances)
- Horse riding and pony trekking
The exceptions are:-
A Sikh wearing a Turban chooses not to wear a helmet. This does not apply to a Sikh wearing a Top Knot.
Where medical or additional needs cause challenges with wearing a conventional safety helmet for the activity.
Please note that this, is only to be used as a last resort in the rare instances / exceptional circumstances when the activity leader in partnership with the parent/carer has come to the conclusion that helmet wearing is not an option for a participant.
It is the activity leader’s responsibility to come to a decision regarding suitable alternative arrangements (reasonable adjustments) and risk assess accordingly, this should be done in consultation with the parent/carer and young person as appropriate. It is the responsibility of the activity provider / activity leader to assess the risks and come to a conclusion regarding suitable alternative arrangements (reasonable adjustments).
In addition to the activities where POR specifically states helmets must be worn A & B can be applied to activities where risk assessment, operating procedures or local decision have identified the importance / need to wear helmets, this may be a paddle sport, sailing activity caving or high ropes for example.
It will always remain the case that if adjustments cannot be made to allow the individual to take part in the activity safely, they should not take part in the activity. Safety remains the priority.
Examples of alternative arrangements
- A young person wears an epileptic seizure helmet the activity leader might decide that this provides adequate protection for the planned activity.
- The method of delivery or participation might be adjusted so that the individual may take part in the activity that reduces the risk and therefore the need to wear a helmet. When cycling for example a trike or quad cycle on a flat route with no traffic may be a suitable reasonable adjustment to enable a young person unable to wear a helmet to participate.
- Some individuals may be affected by the shape or material of the helmet, therefore having a helmet which they are comfortable in and using this for multiple activities may provide the appropriate protection.
Equipment checks and suitability
A helmet is an important safety item that will only perform as the manufacturer has intended if it is in good condition. For this reason all activity helmets should be checked by the activity provider / leader prior to each use.
The checks can be completed relatively quickly and should include:
All helmets must be UKCA / EN / CE marked to the appropriate standard for the activity.
As an explanation a childs toy construction helmet is not suitable for working on a building site or climbing but it will have a CE mark to identify that it is suitable as a toy; it will not have sharp edges and will not splinter or break into small parts a child could swallow.
Other helmet markings will include:
- Name of manufacturer
- Model designation (if several models are marketed by the manufacturer)
- Size if applicable
- Year of manufacture
- Pictogram, which advises the user to read the information given by the manufacturer.
Items of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as helmets have manufacturer's instructions relating to the use and this will also detail the lifespan of the product and how to assess it as being suitable for use.
- Check manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
- Where a manufacturer gives a lifetime for an item, this is the deadline date that must not be exceeded.
- The highest life expectancy of most helmets is ten years.
- The lifespan of a helmet will decrease depending upon the frequency and conditions of use.
- A brand-new climbing helmet could be retired from use on the day of purchase if struck by a rock or dropped from the top of a crag for example.
Note: this list is not exhaustive and manufacturer’s instructions for inspection that accompany the product must always be followed.
- Overall visual inspection.
- Tactile inspection of the operating mechanism.
- A functional check of moving parts such as the adjustment system.
If a cradle is in place a visual and tactile inspection of each part and connection point.
- Cracks, damage or deformation of any component.
- Ultra-violet degradation (evidence through fading / discolouring)
- Contamination such as chemical.
- Excessive wear.
- Loose, damaged or missing rivets / attachment points where straps etc connect to the shell of the helmet.
- Broken or missing locking mechanisms.
- All straps and padding should be checked for security of fixing to the shell.
- If the helmet type has a headband, this should not slip or work lose.
- The adjustment system must function correctly / as manufactured.
- Check the helmet does not have stickers or paint on the shell or straps (unless fitted or approved by the manufacturer)
- A helmet should be retired from use if it has sustained an impact. This could include, an impact with an object, dropping, crushing or has been suspected of sustaining such forces. In case of doubt contact the equipment manufacturers.
- The helmet should be appropriate/designed for/safe for the intended activity.
- Helmets should always be fitted in line with manufacturer’s guidance.
There are some basic principles can be applied to most helmet fitting.
- The helmet should protect the whole head so should not sit too far forward or too far back leaving part of the head exposed. The front of the helmet should sit over the middle of the forehead just above the eyebrows.
- The adjustment system/ cradle or padding should fit snuggly on the head holding the helmet in place so it does not move freely on the head in any direction when the chin strap is undone. One way to check this is to fit the helmet to the head leave the chin strap lose. Move the head around looking up and down left and right etc. if the helmet moves fitting will need adjustment.
- The chin strap should fit snugly, but should not restrict talking. If there is a tail on the chin strap this should be threaded or tucked away to reduce the risk of it catching or snagging.
- Some hairstyles and hair types mean it can be more difficult to get a comfortable correct fit. Larger helmets may be needed and/or the use of a hair net or skull cap under the helmet may be required. If an item such as a skull cap is worn under the helmet it is important to check that the helmet still fits securely on the head and does not slip, slide or move on the skull cap etc.