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Equestrian body protectors
Body protectors are a way to lessen the risk of serious injury, but such products must meet stringent safety standards.
Image © romaoslo
While events such as racing, show jumping and cross-country riding present obvious hazards, falls and kicks are likely to occur in all equestrian pursuits. Statistics show that many accidents happen during seemingly more sedentary exercises, such as general leisure riding (‘hacking’) on the road. Although head injuries are generally by far the most serious, upper torso injuries can also be potentially life-threatening.
Equestrian protection has been available for a number of years and in various forms – such as helmets and body protectors offering protection against impacts. Equestrian body protectors have developed over the years from hard and stiff products with limited flexibility to softer, more comfortable garments allowing greater movement, which still provide at least the same level of protection. The safety standard for testing and certification of such products to be placed on the European market is EN 13158:2018.
One of the most important properties of this type of protector, along with protective coverage, is the ability to withstand impact. This impact performance includes three different levels of testing. Level 1 offers the lowest level of protection as worn by licenced jockeys only, and Level 2 is for low-risk use. Level 3 is the highest level of protection contained within the standard and is for higher-risk activities.
The testing is carried out on whole body protectors, while also making specific reference to the requirement of testing ‘weak points’, such as zip closures and hinged points during the impact assessment. This testing takes place in a conditioned atmosphere with a temperature of 20 ±2ºC and 65 ±5 per cent relative humidity (RH). However, there is also further optional testing that can be conducted at 30 ±2ºC and 37 ±5 per cent RH for products claiming to be protective in conditions above 28ºC.
EN 13158:2018 requires testing of protective coverage on at least seven sizes from the given size range, where this many sizes are available. However, if one of these given sizes fails to meet the requirements, the standard states that full testing of the dimensions will be required on all sizes available within the given size range. This is after the manufacturer has had an opportunity to modify the design, otherwise the size that failed will simply fail again, as may other sizes.
The standard still does not permit detachable tail components to be included in the calculation of the minimum protective coverage of the garment. Detachable tails are only permitted if they fully comply with all other requirements and are in excess of the minimum amount of protective coverage.
This standard permits restricted areas on body protectors of reduced thickness impact material at both the shoulders and sides to enable adjustment. However, there is a requirement for a minimum 25 mm overlap of full thickness impact material in these areas for garments with a 1,000 mm chest girth. For other sizes, this 25 mm overlap is scaled pro-rata using the formula in the standard. A further exception to this is made for body protectors for use only when shoulder protection is also worn. In this case, the protection over the shoulder on the body protector can be absent provided (when worn in conjunction with the relevant shoulder protection) the area is covered and no gaps occur between the body protector and the shoulder protector.
Adaptability and adjustability
EN 13158:2018 requires body protectors to incorporate a strong and contrasting colour warning marker at least 10 mm wide to indicate when the widest permitted setting of the adjusters has been exceeded. However, this particular system is not required if adjusters cannot physically be opened further than the permitted maximum, and also if this restriction cannot be overridden by the user.
In common with many other European standards, EN 13158:2018 includes requirements for chemical innocuousness. As this relates to the materials used in the construction of the protector , it is recommended that manufacturers contact their material suppliers to see if they already have suitable test reports and documents that can be used to demonstrate conformity, thereby avoiding duplication of work. The standard does not introduce anything that is not already covered by EU legislation.
SATRA can test all aspects of EN 13158 and carry out type-examination for CE and UKCA marking against the PPE Regulation EU 2016/425. SATRA is also British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA)-approved to test in line with the BETA body protector scheme.
Please visit www.satra.com/ppe for further information on SATRA’s PPE certification and testing services.
How can we help?
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SATRA has a wide range of specialist testing equipment available to evaluate various products that are claimed to offer equestrian protection. Furthermore, as a Notified Body, SATRA is able to carry out both testing and certification of such products in accordance with the PPE Regulation. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.