Understanding Snell Labels and Safety Ratings
Helmets are considered the most important piece of safety gear for a driver or rider. Over the years helmet technology has changed and so have the requirements for driving events. A Snell certification is considered the gold standard for helmet testing and is recognized by every major racing body.
Questions often arise about the certification process and what are the difference between ratings. Don’t be caught out at tech inspection with the wrong rating of helmet so here are more details when choosing a helmet.
The Snell Foundation tests dozens of types of helmets based on their designated use and has categories such as Motorcycling, Elite Automotive Sports, Karting, Special Application as well as Equestrian, Skiing and Cycling. Some helmets can look similar but are designed and tested for different applications. The only acceptable helmets for use at events are rated SA2015 or SA2020. The rating SA is for Special Application (Competitive Automotive Sports). The Snell Foundation describes the differences in this way:
The SA standard was designed for competitive auto racing while the M standard was for motorcycling and other motorsports. The K standard was released to accommodate helmets used in karting. There are three major differences between them:
- The SA standard requires flammability test while the M and K standards do not.
- The SA and K standards allow for a narrower visual field than the M standard (Some SA and K certified helmets may not be street legal).
- The SA and K standards include a rollbar multi-impact test while the M standard does not.
The date code (2010, 2015) refers to the expiration of the certification, which is 12 years from the date shown. For example, a SA2010 helmet is acceptable until 2022. Helmet shoppers should look for a helmet with a 2015/2020 certification to get the longest use from their investment.
The Snell Foundation has become aware of fraudulent certification labels in headgear used for motorcycling and motorsport activities. The counterfeit labels appear to be in helmets that have not acquired Snell certification and do not have the support or approval of the Snell Foundation.
Helmet samples with bogus Snell label received by the Foundation were obtained from online sources that may originate in Malaysia. Such labels are present in helmet models that may appear on the Snell Foundation’s certified helmet lists, but are not endorsed by the licensed manufacturer or owner of these helmet brands and helmet models.
Snell certification labels are 3 ¼ inches by ¾ inches with rounded corners and have a specific color based on the Standard. Each label has a unique serial number starting with one or two alphabetic characters and a six-digit number. Since 2010, all Snell labels have had a barcode included. You can find illustrations of these labels here.
If you have any question about label authenticity or certification validity of a helmet on the Snell certified helmet lists, you can send Snell the label serial number along with the helmet brand, model name and date of manufacture to firstname.lastname@example.org. Helmet and label pictures are helpful in identifying labels as well.