Helmet law a no-brainer 

Private member's bill would establish standards for sport helmets

click to enlarge Hardheaded You look fine, and you're less likely to crack your head open. Might as well wear a helmet, eh?
  • Hardheaded You look fine, and you're less likely to crack your head open. Might as well wear a helmet, eh?

A campaign that started out as a plea for national standards for ski and snowboard helmets has grown into a campaign for standards for all sports helmets, as well as a call for a national injury prevention program for youth.

According to Richard Kinar - who started out as a parent advocate for helmet safety and now has a leadership position on head injuries with the Canadian Standards Association and the Brain Injury Association of B.C. -he has met resistance from the federal government, the B.C. Ski Areas Association, ski resorts and others in implementing changes he knows will save lives and prevent injuries.

While it's been frustrating, he can count on the support of various Members of Parliament, including West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country MP John Weston, the provincial government, and the Union of B.C. Municipalities, as well as doctor's associations, parents groups and a foundation started by former Crazy Canuck and brain injury survivor Dave Irwin. Today's Parent magazine even started a petition so parents across Canada can help lobby for change, including a national injury prevention strategy for youth in Canada.

The reports and statistics are also piling up. One recent report draws a correlation between brain injuries and Alzheimer's disease and dementia later in life. Another suggests that every dollar spent on helmets saves Canada $29 in health care costs.

In Kinar's view it's only a matter of time, but there is no time to waste with lives being lost and ruined by what he views as preventable head injuries.

After being sidetracked by snap elections, Vancouver Centre Member of Parliament Hedy Fry - herself a doctor - last month reintroduced a private member's bill on helmet safety, which would require that all recreational snow sports helmets sold in Canada meet guidelines set by the Canadian Standards Association.

Standards already apply to hockey helmets, and Kinar worked to secure funding to develop a similar CSA standard for snow sports helmets which he says is the best and most comprehensive in the world. But without legislation there is no guarantee that the standard will ever be used.

Fry, a Liberal MP, has written for an Order in Council to have Bill C412 passed, which would amend the Hazardous Products Act, the federal government has yet to respond.

For Kinar, who can cite every skier and snowboarder to die of a head injury in recent years off the top of his head, it's unforgivable that you can still go into a store and buy a helmet that would not meet Canadian standards, and might not work properly in the event of an accident.

"I just did an interview with CBC on (Prince Edward Island) after a serious incident there, and I put the blame firmly on (Prime Minister) Harper for not passing Hedy Fry's bill," said Kinar, who is also lobbying to apply the same laws to all recreational helmets sold in Canada, including helmets for skateboards and cycling, where standards are voluntary.

"The Brain Injury Association of Canada says head injuries are a leading killer and disabler of children, and preventable injuries cost $14.7 billion each and every year. We believe that 90 per cent of every billion we pay out for preventable injuries can be put back into the Canadian tax system or health system, but government continues to ignore the issue.

"Our own federal health minister supports this initiative. Canada ranks 27th among 29 OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries when it comes to preventable childhood injuries and death."

In light of the Olympics coming to B.C. in 2010, Kinar says its hypocritical to promote sport and active living on the one hand, while failing to ensure sports helmets are safe on the other.

But while establishing a standard for helmets is crucial, ensuring that helmets are used is another battle. Quebec's sports minister is currently considering whether to make helmets mandatory for all skiers and snowboarders, despite concerns from the ski industry that adults would stop coming rather than purchase or rent helmets. It's less of an issue for kids, most of whom already wear helmets as part of ski and snowboard programs, or to access terrain parks. Specialists in Quebec say the number of head injuries could be reduced 60 per cent with helmet regulations.

The position of the Canada West Ski Areas Association, another of Kinar's frequent targets, is that helmets should be mandatory for children in ski school programs but optional for everyone else. They have also opposed Kinar's recommendations to make helmets mandatory for mountain staff, although Kinar believes that decision will ultimately be made by the province through the B.C. Safety Authority.

As a host of Olympic events and Canada's leading resort, Kinar would like Whistler Blackcomb to become the first ski area to make helmet use mandatory by on-mountain staff.

"I'm up in Whistler quite regularly, and I can see that every year more and more people are wearing helmets up there. Most people are wearing helmets. But when you look at mountain staff, the ski instructors or patrollers, the people our kids look up to, very few of them are wearing helmets," said Kinar. "It's very noticeable.

"I'm not telling people not to ski, or not to jump, or not to go faster, but head injury is very misunderstood in Canada, and helmets are proven to reduce the risk of death, disability and head injuries. There are a lot of opinions on the topic of helmets, but that's the only fact that really matters."

Kinar would also make it mandatory for kids across the province to watch Wipe Out, a film that follows three young B.C. men who suffered life-changing brain injuries. The documentary is available free at the Knowledge Network (http://wipeout.knowledgenetwork.ca/wipeout.html).

"Kids that see this film are changed by it, they want to wear helmets after seeing it," said Kinar. "It just seems like such a fundamental thing to wear a helmet, a no-brainer."
A campaign that started out as a plea for national standards for ski and snowboard helmets has grown into a campaign for standards for all sports helmets, as well as a call for a national injury prevention program for youth.

According to Richard Kinar - who started out as a parent advocate for helmet safety and now has a leadership position on head injuries with the Canadian Standards Association and the Brain Injury Association of B.C. -he has met resistance from the federal government, the B.C. Ski Areas Association, ski resorts and others in implementing changes he knows will save lives and prevent injuries.

While it's been frustrating, he can count on the support of various Members of Parliament, including West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country MP John Weston, the provincial government, and the Union of B.C. Municipalities, as well as doctor's associations, parents groups and a foundation started by former Crazy Canuck and brain injury survivor Dave Irwin. Today's Parent magazine even started a petition so parents across Canada can help lobby for change, including a national injury prevention strategy for youth in Canada.

The reports and statistics are also piling up. One recent report draws a correlation between brain injuries and Alzheimer's disease and dementia later in life. Another suggests that every dollar spent on helmets saves Canada $29 in health care costs.

In Kinar's view it's only a matter of time, but there is no time to waste with lives being lost and ruined by what he views as preventable head injuries.

After being sidetracked by snap elections, Vancouver Centre Member of Parliament Hedy Fry - herself a doctor - last month reintroduced a private member's bill on helmet safety, which would require that all recreational snow sports helmets sold in Canada meet guidelines set by the Canadian Standards Association.

Standards already apply to hockey helmets, and Kinar worked to secure funding to develop a similar CSA standard for snow sports helmets which he says is the best and most comprehensive in the world. But without legislation there is no guarantee that the standard will ever be used.

Fry, a Liberal MP, has written for an Order in Council to have Bill C412 passed, which would amend the Hazardous Products Act, the federal government has yet to respond.

For Kinar, who can cite every skier and snowboarder to die of a head injury in recent years off the top of his head, it's unforgivable that you can still go into a store and buy a helmet that would not meet Canadian standards, and might not work properly in the event of an accident.

"I just did an interview with CBC on (Prince Edward Island) after a serious incident there, and I put the blame firmly on (Prime Minister) Harper for not passing Hedy Fry's bill," said Kinar, who is also lobbying to apply the same laws to all recreational helmets sold in Canada, including helmets for skateboards and cycling, where standards are voluntary.

"The Brain Injury Association of Canada says head injuries are a leading killer and disabler of children, and preventable injuries cost $14.7 billion each and every year. We believe that 90 per cent of every billion we pay out for preventable injuries can be put back into the Canadian tax system or health system, but government continues to ignore the issue.

"Our own federal health minister supports this initiative. Canada ranks 27th among 29 OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries when it comes to preventable childhood injuries and death."

In light of the Olympics coming to B.C. in 2010, Kinar says its hypocritical to promote sport and active living on the one hand, while failing to ensure sports helmets are safe on the other.

But while establishing a standard for helmets is crucial, ensuring that helmets are used is another battle. Quebec's sports minister is currently considering whether to make helmets mandatory for all skiers and snowboarders, despite concerns from the ski industry that adults would stop coming rather than purchase or rent helmets. It's less of an issue for kids, most of whom already wear helmets as part of ski and snowboard programs, or to access terrain parks. Specialists in Quebec say the number of head injuries could be reduced 60 per cent with helmet regulations.

The position of the Canada West Ski Areas Association, another of Kinar's frequent targets, is that helmets should be mandatory for children in ski school programs but optional for everyone else. They have also opposed Kinar's recommendations to make helmets mandatory for mountain staff, although Kinar believes that decision will ultimately be made by the province through the B.C. Safety Authority.

As a host of Olympic events and Canada's leading resort, Kinar would like Whistler Blackcomb to become the first ski area to make helmet use mandatory by on-mountain staff.

"I'm up in Whistler quite regularly, and I can see that every year more and more people are wearing helmets up there. Most people are wearing helmets. But when you look at mountain staff, the ski instructors or patrollers, the people our kids look up to, very few of them are wearing helmets," said Kinar. "It's very noticeable.

"I'm not telling people not to ski, or not to jump, or not to go faster, but head injury is very misunderstood in Canada, and helmets are proven to reduce the risk of death, disability and head injuries. There are a lot of opinions on the topic of helmets, but that's the only fact that really matters."

Kinar would also make it mandatory for kids across the province to watch Wipe Out, a film that follows three young B.C. men who suffered life-changing brain injuries. The documentary is available free at the Knowledge Network (http://wipeout.knowledgenetwork.ca/wipeout.html).

"Kids that see this film are changed by it, they want to wear helmets after seeing it," said Kinar. "It just seems like such a fundamental thing to wear a helmet, a no-brainer."

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

Latest in Whistler

More by Andrew Mitchell

© 1994-2017 Pique Publishing Inc., Glacier Community Media

- Website powered by Foundation