Following a five-year review and revision process, the updated ANSI/ISEA Z89.1 Industrial Head Protection standard was published in January 2009. Standards developed by consensus-based organizations such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) provide the most efficient means of updating product performance standards with input from those affected by the standards. This includes users of the product, government, academia, testing and certification organizations, and manufacturers.

In the case of industrial head protection, the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) has been designated by ANSI as the secretariat with responsibility to achieve consensus in developing the best possible standard for protecting industrial workers from potential head injuries. The result of their effort, ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2009, will be used by the industry for testing and certification for years to come.

In anticipation of the publication of this revised standard, the Safety Equipment Institute (SEI) Board of Directors approved adoption of the 2009 edition of the Industrial Head Protection standard at their December 2008 board meeting. All testing for SEI’s industrial head protection certification program is now being conducted in accordance with the 2009 edition. Manufacturers have been submitting models to be certified since publication of the new standard.

Types and classes
ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2009, American National Standard for Industrial Head Protection classifies helmets according to the specific impact and electrical performance demands they are supposed to meet. Type I helmets are intended to reduce the force of impact resulting from a blow to the top of the head. Type II helmets are intended to also reduce the force from a blow that may be received off-center.

There are three electrical classes designated in the standard. Class C (conductive) helmets are not tested for electrical insulation properties. Class G helmets shall withstand 2200 volts AC, 60 Hertz, for one minute, and the leakage current shall not exceed three milliamperes. Class E helmets shall withstand 20,000 volts AC, 60 hertz, for three minutes, and the leakage current shall not exceed nine milliamperes.

New testing options
The non-mandatory options which require additional testing include the following:
  • Reverse wearing position — Testing for Type I helmets includes the force transmission testing when mounted in the reverse position on the test headform. Type II helmets shall pass the force transmission, impact attenuation, and off-center penetration testing when mounted in the reverse wearing position on the test headform.
  • High visibility — In order to mark a helmet as HV for high visibility, testing of helmets shall demonstrate certain levels of chromaticity and luminance factors based upon the specific requirements for fluorescent yellow-green, fluorescent orange-red or fluorescent red.
  • Lower temperature — In order to mark a helmet as LT for lower temperature, testing of helmets shall demonstrate compliance with the force transmission, apex penetration, impact energy attenuation, off-center penetration and chin strap-retention requirements after being conditioned at -30ºC (-22ºF) for four hours.
Instructions & labeling
For ease of use for the wearer of industrial head protection, the Z89.1 standard calls for specific user instructions as well as for precise labeling language. Helmets certified as meeting the above optional requirements shall display a symbol provided in the standard that signifies compliance with new testing requirements. The optional symbols shall be used in addition to the designators for the type (Type I or Type II) and electrical class (Class G, Class E, Class C).

As part of the certification process, the certification organization will review the manufacturer’s instructions that must be provided with each helmet. These instructions must explain proper fitting, use and care, and, if applicable, reverse wearing.

Additionally, the standard specifies the size of required markings including the name or identifying mark of the manufacturer, the date of manufacture, the standard designation, applicable type and class designation and the head-range size. The standard provides for specific markings for those helmets that have passed optional testing criteria. All markings are reviewed for accuracy during the certification process.

Third-party certification
In addition to the force transmission, electrical insulation, markings and user instruction requirements, the ANSI standard states that accessories shall not cause the helmet to fail any performance tests. Where public safety and worker protection are concerned, safety professionals should confirm that the requirements of the ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2009 standard have been met. For third party certification of PPE, reviewing the SEI list of certified products at can be a valuable exercise.

Accredited certification organizations must have strict requirements for the use of the certification mark on their products and have an enforcement mechanism built into their certification system. The certification marks from such organizations signify to a purchaser that the product has met certification requirements including testing and quality assurance controls.

All ANSI accredited certification bodies are required to provide published listings of their certified products. In SEI’s case, all certified products are listed on its Web site and may also be found on the Responder Knowledge Base Web site.