Ontario skiing death prompts renewed call for helmet standards
Published Monday, December 31, 2012 2:29PM EST
The Brain Injury Association of Canada is warning Canadians that helmets for alpine sports imported and sold in the country are not required to meet safety standards set by the Canadian Standards Association.
“In Canada, you cannot be assured that a helmet meets any standards whatsoever,” association spokesperson Richard Kinar told CTV’s Canada AM on Monday.
Kinar’s comments come after a 16-year-old boy died over the weekend after failing to land a jump at a ski resort in Uxbridge, Ont. The boy, who was wearing a helmet at the time, suffered head injuries as a result.
Kinar said many helmets sold in Canada either follow international standards or are imported into the country. But, he said, international standards aren’t as strong as the standards that were set by the Canadian Standards Association in 2009. He added that when helmets are imported there’s nothing done to ensure they meet any safety standards.
“The Auditor General wrote a report in 2012 which states that imported helmets into Canada that do not meet a CSA standard could contribute to injury or death,” said Kinar. “There are no helmets that meet a CSA standard.”
In an editorial published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal last February, Barbara Sibbald said helmets that meet the 2009 CSA standards would withstand multiple impacts and use foam that is manufactured to accommodate specific head sizes and weights. This would provide better protection for a range of impacts, she said.
Kinar said that while all hockey helmets imported or sold in Canada must meet CSA standards under the Hazardous Products Act, helmets for alpine sports are not required to.
He said the issue has become a political one.
A private member’s bill calling for recreational snow sport helmets to be included in the act has been proposed twice by Liberal MP Hedy Fry, who is a physician.
“We could have helmets here that meet CSA standards in about an 18-month period if the Prime Minister chose to do so,” Kinar said.
In the meantime Kinar recommends that when shopping for a ski or snowboard helmet, parents should check to make sure the helmet hasn’t been previously damaged.
Single-impact helmets can be damaged even if they’re dropped from a table height, he said.
He also said parents should make sure that they aren’t buying something called a “protective hat.” Some of those don’t meet any standards whatsoever, said Kinar.
He cautioned, however, that “it’s absolutely impossible to tell unless the helmet has been tested on a test bench.”
Test technician Patrick Richard show a ski helmet tested at the Canadian Standards Association International laboratory, April 30, 2009 in Montreal. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Paul Chiasson)