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Hohenstein to research on hygienic properties of helmets
Feb '13
Motorcyclists do it. Construction workers do it. And the rule for more and more skiers and snowboarders is: Not without my helmet! While it used to be mainly small children and safety fanatics who used ski helmets, many winter sports enthusiasts are now aware that a helmet can offer protection in case of a fall or crash.

But not every helmet is right for everyone. And how could it? Not all heads are the same: It is a known fact that shape and circumference can differ greatly from person to person. Helmet manufacturers know this, too, but they have to work with the measurement information currently available for helmets.

This is where a research project (AiF no. 16976 N) at the Hohenstein Institute in Bönnigheim which started in summer 2012 comes in: The scientists want to use the project with an expected duration of two years to create the data basis for optimised textile based head protection systems.

‘Even the safest of helmets cannot offer optimum fit and protection if it is not right for the individual head size and shape of the wearer,’ says Simone Morlock who manages the project at the Hohenstein Institute. The research results will enable manufacturers to offer consumers helmets with a better fit in the future.

The results can be transferred to all head protection systems – and there are many of them today, for work and leisure: The models range from the construction trade, police and military to helmets for cyclists, skaters, riders or water sports enthusiasts. On so-called personal protection equipment, for example for firefighters, face, ear and respiratory protection also play a very important role.

According to the German compulsory accident insurance there were almost 79,000 notifiable work accidents with head injuries in 2011 alone. The head is the third most common area of injury. However, as head protection systems are only worn consistently if they are comfortable, ideal fit is very important.

Despite the great demand for suitable head protection systems there are no well-founded anthropometric head data of women, men and children available in Germany to date. Firstly, the known standards which are applied to head protection systems do not contain the required measurement information for deriving 3D shapes.

Secondly, the measurements in the standards are not the current state of the art. The German Commission for Occupational Health and Safety and Standardization (KAN), which unites all relevant institutions for occupational health and safety in Germany, expressly recommends comparing the ten year old anthropometric data of the standards to current data.

Other countries have progressed much further with the implementation of projects for optimised head protection systems. Anthropometric data collected in other countries, e.g. in China or the USA, cannot be applied to Germans, though, as different ethnic groups show basic differences in their body and head morphologies, due to genetics.

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