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Federal funding final step for national helmet standards

Ski areas, municipalities endorse creation of national standards

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The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA) are the latest organizations to endorse the creation of a set of national standards for ski and snowboard helmets, joining groups like the Union of B.C. Municipalities, provincial medical associations, various local governments and elected members of both the B.C. legislature and House of Commons.

According to helmet advocate Richard Kinar, a mountain safety volunteer from the North Shore who has been working for almost two years to promote a national standard for skiing and snowboarding helmets, all the pieces are in place.

"It’s all in the politicians’ hands now, they have to come up with the money for the standards," said Kinar.

Hedy Fry, the MP from Vancouver Centre, has already brought the motion to fund a Canadian Standards Association standard to the federal B.C. Liberal Caucus, and it is expected that it will be introduced in Parliament during the current session.

"My guess is it will happen quite quickly now," said Kinar. "I know that Hedy and others on our side are looking at this as a health issue. A lot of people also believe we’re putting our young athletes at risk by not having standards for the Olympics."

The CSA estimates that it will cost $500,000 and take between 12 and 18 months to create a standard for helmet manufacturers and the public. At the same time, Health Canada will need to designate helmets for skiers, snowboarders, skateboarders and others as hazardous products, ensuring that the government has "the legislative teeth in place to enforce a single standard," said Kinar. Hockey helmets are currently designated as hazardous products, and as a result the CSA standards are closely followed by manufacturers.

Once standards are in place, helmets will have to undergo a number of tests, at various temperatures, before they can be sold or rented in Canada. Kinar estimates that it will take another year for manufacturers to conform to the standards.

"It will take a while, but I’m hoping we’ll have the standards in place at least a couple of years before the Olympics," said Kinar.

Most helmets sold for use in sports like skiing and snowboarding already conform to various American and European standards, but Kinar says standards differ considerably around the world. It’s also not a requirement for helmets sold or rented in Canada to conform to any standards whatsoever, he adds, and many don’t.

Because standards already apply to bike, hockey and motorcycle helmets, Kinar says some people assume that their ski and snowboard helmets have been subjected to standards as well, and are surprised to discover they don’t.

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