The objective of the present paper is to investigate the overall impact performance of various riot helmets in a comparative study. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ-0104.02) and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA-Z611-02) standards regulate the use of riot helmets in North America. Both sets of standards have a number of requirements for impact performance. Impact tests carried out with the use of a drop tower apparatus compliant with NIJ test protocols demonstrated large differences in impact attenuation level among the helmets from six manufacturers in terms of frontal and lateral impacts to the shell, and face-shield deflection. For instance, the impact energy yielding a head form acceleration of 300 g’s was measured for each helmet for frontal impacts on the helmet shell. Values ranging from 69 J up to 171 J were obtained. The energy levels of typical crowd-control threats, e.g., baton blows and projectiles, were quantified and compared with the impact energy values used in the standards. It is observed that the NIJ face-shield deflection requirement is low as compared to actual riot threats, whereas the CSA requirements are more in line with these threats. A novel method was devised to objectively assign a global impact performance score to each helmet. This method takes into account the frontal and lateral impacts to the shell as well as the face-shield deflection tests. It is based on the directional origin of the threat and the geometry of the helmets (frontal percentage area of the visor). From these global performance scores, it is possible to obtain a ranking of the various riot helmets used in the present comparative study. Based on the analysis of the global scores, it was found that appropriate protection of the face (through an impact resistant visor) is the key feature for a helmet that will be used in riot environments.
The authors are with Med-Eng Systems, 2400 St. Laurent Blvd., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1G 6C4.