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Monday March 05, 2018

CPSC May Consider Petition Seeking Exemptions for Airbag Bike Helmets

Commissioners were slated to vote on whether to docket a petition to exempt inflatable head protection devices from CPSC's bike helmet requirements. The petition would get a 60-day comment period, according to the draft Federal Register notice (bit.ly/2CpW47v).

 

The request came from the Swedish company, Hövding, which makes "airbag helmets." It asserted (bit.ly/2HQRuOU) that a Swedish standard (SP 4439) has accounted for such non-traditional helmets and asked that they be exempt from 16 CFR 1203 if they are certified as meeting it. The company also sought an interim final rule "to expedite the introduction of this life-saving product to the U.S. market."

 

To bolster that claim, the petition cited a study by a Swedish insurance company that compared inflatable to traditional models. The petition quoted the study: "The Hövding 2.0, a head protector that is inflated during an accident situation and acts as an airbag for the head obtained the best results. The translational acceleration was 48g, a value almost 3 times better than the best conventional helmet."

 

As for the quality of the Swedish standard, the petition asserted that it "covers the range of issues regulated by the CPSC standard including such things as construction, sizing and ergonomics, minimum protected area, shock absorbing capabilities, wear resistance, and labeling." It added that the Swedish standard is more stringent, noting, for example, that CPSC mandates a peak impact acceleration of 300g while SP 4439 demands a lower value of 250g.

 

The petition says CPSC has authority under the Administrative Procedures Act and asserts that caselaw shows that "Agencies not only may but must consider granting exemptions from general rules in special circumstances" (its emphasis). The request insists CPSC can forgo a comment period under that law because the action would be an adjudication not a rulemaking. (Note: the current decision is whether to docket the petition, not whether to begin a rulemaking.)

 

The existence of the petition became known in January (PSL, 1/22/18) during a meeting between the company's counsel and CPSC staff. The petition is dated December.