Last week the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) confirmed that they would release a new national standard for ski and snowboard helmets in June, known as CSA Z263.1. Similar CSA standards are already in place for cycling and hockey helmets, but they may be amended after the results of ski and snowboard helmet tests.
However, without a federal law that would effectively prevent the sale of helmets that did not meet the new standard, helmet advocate Richard Kinar says there is a chance the standard will never be used.
“I have personally spoken to helmet manufacturers and they have told me that they would refuse to make the helmets unless they were forced to by the federal government by passing a law that would classify helmets as hazardous products,” said Kinar, who helped lobby for funding for the CSA to come up with the new standard.
Classifying the sub-standard helmets as hazardous materials would effectively make it illegal for retailers to sell such helmets.
Work is already underway to make that happen. In March 2007, Liberal MP and physician Hedy Fry tabled a Private Member’s Bill, C-412, that would prohibit the sale of non-CSA approved sports helmets under the Hazardous Products Act. The legislation would also apply to helmets used for kayaking, climbing, skateboarding, and other activities.
The legislation also has the support of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, as well as athletes like former Crazy Canuck Dave Irwin — himself the victim of a traumatic brain injury.
However, Fry’s request to fast-track legislation through an Order In Council has since been denied, and it could be several years before the Bill is even read in the House of Commons. Fry will push the issue at an upcoming session of Parliament, but without the support of the ruling Conservative Party there is still a long road ahead.
In the meantime, helmet manufactures can voluntarily produce helmets that meet the new standard, and stores can voluntarily sell them. Kinar is also looking into the possibility of creating a non-profit group to manufacture the helmets and make them available to the public.
“The real shame of it all is that now we have this great new standard that has the ability to save lives and prevent head injury and paralysis, and we may never use it,” he said. “We have no national injury prevention strategy, even when we have studies that show that preventable injuries are a leading killer and disabler of children in Canada.”
Preventable injuries, including sports injuries, also cost the health care system an estimated $15 billion a year, according to figures compiled by Kinar and the Brain Injury Association of Canada.