Industrial helmets vs climbing helmets

EN 397

EN 12492

Which safety helmet should you choose when working at heights?

​​​​​​​You should choose your safety helmet based on the types of risks you could potentially come across during a work assignment. In general, you should choose an industrial helmet when working at heights even if you need to climb ladders. A climbing helmet is intended for climbing mountains, and it is equipped with a special chin strap that can be inexpedient for industrial work. Learn more about which type of helmet you should choose in this guide.

Safety helmet – Also for heights

As with many other tasks, it is also important to use a safety helmet when you work at heights. It might seem a bit unnecessary if you work in an area with no risk of fallen objects, however, the purpose of the helmet is not only to protect you from impacts from above. It can also be very useful should you fall and hit your head against heavy objects. When working at heights, you will most likely be using fall arrest equipment, and should any accidents occur, you risk swinging into objects such as house facades, scaffoldings and the likes.

Risk assessment - Your choice of helmet depends on the context

Your safety helmet – industrial or climbing helmet – should match the risks of your tasks. Therefore, we recommend making a risk assessment to identify which are the hazards to most likely occur. This way you avoid choosing a helmet that offers protection against the least probable hazards. Different tasks require different features from your helmet. You should therefore choose your safety helmet wisely. Furthermore, the risk assessment also works as an important piece of documentation that you can show to the authorities.

EN standard for industrial & climbing helmets

In general, you will choose a safety helmet that has been approved according to either the EN 12492 standard or the EN 397.

  • EN 397 is a standard for industrial helmets and matches the risk related to construction sites or other places where a safety helmet is crucial.

  • EN 12492 is a standard that describes the safety requirements and test methods for climbing helmets intended for mountain climbers.

No matter which you choose, the following applies for both types of helmets that must be:

  • CE-approved.

  • Approved according to an EN standard.

  • Marked with the EN standard according which it has been approved.

The EN standards state the minimum requirements of the helmets, and in many cases they are quite similar. However, there are a couple of crucial differences that you should pay special attention to. This goes for the chin strap that can end up being more harmful than beneficial, if it is used for the wrong task.

Pay attention to the chin strap

If the risk assessment determines that your biggest and most probable risks are best prevented using a climbing helmet, you can feel free to choose such type of helmet. However, you should pay attention to the chin strap that can cause severe damage in certain situations.

Chin strap for EN 12492 climbing helmet

It is required that climbing helmets (EN 12492) are equipped with a chin strap to ensure that the helmet stays on the head in case of a fall on a mountainside. Therefore, the chin strap must be able to withstand a load of 50 kg. for two minutes. This, however, can cause strangulation if you use the helmet for industrial work, since the helmet is likely to get caught in moving parts or stuck in scaffolding at a fall, making two minutes a long time.

Chin strap for EN 397 industrial helmet

An industrial helmet can also be equipped with a chin strap, but they must break at a load between 15 and 25 kg. to prevent strangulating the user. Apart from this, the helmet including the harness can transfer a maximum of 500 kg. of force to the neck when subjected to a drop of 1 kg. from 1 metre height. For climbing helmets (EN 12492) the same test allows a transfer of 1,000 kg. force. It is a powerful force, which is why many manufacturers choose to include the drop test from EN 397. But remember, it is your responsibility to know according to which tests the helmet has been approved.

In practice, there are several manufacturers who make both types of helmets out of the same shell, making it difficult to see the difference between them. Nevertheless, the inner part is different and, moreover, the climbing helmet is required to have a certain size of ventilation, increasing the risk of damages should a sharp object drop onto the helmet.

In general, we recommend that you use an industrial helmet when working at heights, but in the end it is based on the risk assessment.

See Selection of industrial helmets for heights


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