EN443 vs NFPA 1971

Published:  11 April, 2008

During the last 12 months standard EN443 (helmets for firefighters) and NFPA 1971 norms have been altered – so what are the differences between the two?

While the NFPA’s five-year review led only to a few changes, EN 443’s changes will lead to many manufactures having to substantially modify their products.
Side by side, a first impression of the two norms is that the NFPA one is more practical and easier to implement.

As a matter of fact, NFPA 1971-2007 as defined in paragraph 1.2 , specifies the minimum design, performance, testing, and certification requirements for structural firefighting protective ensembles and ensemble elements that include coats, trousers, coveralls, helmets (with goggles and/or face shield), gloves, footwear and interface components.

EN 443 norm, on the other hand, as defined in paragraph 1, merely specifies the minimum requirements for structural firefighters helmets referring to specific norms for the methods of testing codified  as EN 130870 series (10 norms) and referring to EN 14458:2004 for the minimum requirements of visors.

So, we can say that the NFPA 1971 ensures a uniformity in the development and testing of all fire fighting equipment, while avoiding the inconsistencies that occur between EN 443 and EN 14458, where masks/helmet joints are not regulated.

NFPA 1971-2007 norm establishes two different helmet standards:
•    Proximity fire fighting protective helmet for specialised fire fighting operations that can include the activities of rescue, fire suppression, and property conservation at incidents involving fires producing high levels of radiant heat as well as conductive and convective heat;
•    Structural fire fighting protective helmet for rescue activities, fire suppression, and property conservation in buildings, enclosed structures, vehicles, marine vessels, or like properties that are involved in a fire or emergency situation.

EN 443:2007 establishes a helmet for firefighting in buildings as well as other structures, and for the protection of wearer’s heads against hazards which might occur during operations of firefighting in buildings and other structures.
Two kinds of helmets are specified under EN 443:2007, based on the protection area function:

- Type A helmet protecting at least area 1a  (yellow area in picture 1)
- Type B helmet protecting at least area 1a and area 1b (yellow and green areas in picture 1)
Having looked at the test EN443:2007 test procedures, we can see that European standards writers have aimed to unify within one standard two types of helmets: the structural fire fighting protective helmet and the proximity firefighting protective helmet.

Both standards include tests for shock absorption, retention system strength and resistance to penetration, flame, and electricity – but the testing varies – and sometimes quite dramatically.

Shock testing

EN 443:2007 refers to EN 13087-2:2001 and only tests the absorption force transmitted. Five impacts are carried out (from L1 to L5 as shown in picture 2) on a helmet by a hemispheric striker with a 50 mm ray, witch falls from 2.5 metres (the force transmitted to the false head must not be above 15.000 N).

NFPA 1971:2007 tests helmet resistance both in absorbing the acceleration caused by the impact, as well as the power of absorption of the force transmitted by the impact.
The shock absorption is measured by an hemispheric striker with a 50 mm ray weighing 3,58 kg, that follows on the top test area (picture 3), from a height that allows it to reach an impact speed of 5,47 m/sec (corresponding theoretically to a height of 1,53 m) and to a potential energy of nearly 54 Joules.

The acceleration test is carried out over five impacts (top, front, rear and side areas, figure 3, p62) from a height that allows it to reach an impact speed of 6 m/s, corresponding theoretically to a height of 1,84 m and to a potential energy of 93 Joules.

Resistance to penetration

EN 443:2007 norm refers to the EN 13087-3:2001 and outlines that there be no contact between the striker and the head form. Three impacts are carried out on each helmet, using a flat blade striker with the mass of 1 kg falling with a potential energy included between 19,5 - 24,5 Joules according to impact area.

NFPA similarly requires the use of a striker with a mass of 1 kg, but using a striker with a cone comprising an included angle of 60° with a height of 38 mm and a tip radius of 0,5 mm, falling with a potential energy of 24,5 Joules. As well as testing that there is no contact between the striker and the head form, NFPA tests that there is no electric contact between them.

Radiant heat test

As mentioned already, according to NFPA resistance to the radiant heat has to be carried out prior to shock and penetration tests – with an irradiation of helmets of 10 kw/m2 for 3 minutes. EN 443:2007 stipulates a radiation of 14 Kw/m2 per 8 min.

Flame test

EN 443:2007 norm includes a flame engulfment test (described in EN 137:2006 Clause, with a manikin wearing a helmet; fire fighters jacket (EN 469); fire hood (EN 13911); and a full facemask (EN 136 class 3).

NFPA stipulates a testing procedure similar to that provided by the previous version of EN 443:2007, EN 443:1997. NFPA uses a Bunsen burner fuelled by methane producing a 50 mm blue flame with a inner cone of 0f 25 mm and a temperature of 1,200°C. The tip of the inner cone is applied to the helmet shell from below the helmet at an angle of 90° to the basic plane as follows:

•    At the intersection of the front edge of the brim and the middle-saggital plane
•    At the intersection of the each side of the brim and the coronal plane
•    At one location on the edge of the brim to be determined by test laboratory.


I have attempted out outline the main differences between the two norms but considering the complexity of the matter dealt with and the great differences between the measurement methods, it is impossible to provide a complete guide.
At the end of the day both standards define minimum requirements for the production of an optimum product.

  • Operation Florian

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