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B.C. government chips in for helmet standards

$50,000 in funding to help create Canadian standards for ski, snowboard helmet

A contribution from the B.C. government puts the Canadian Standards Association $50,000 closer to their goal of raising $500,000 to create a national helmet standard for skiing, snowboarding and skateboarding, and an education program for retailers and consumers.

The B.C. government made the announcement Monday.

"We know that helmets reduce the risk of injury is sports such as skiing, skateboarding and inline skating," said John Les, the Minister of Small Business and Economic Development. "In our February budget we made all safety helmets exempt from PST. Now we want to ensure that the helmets people use meet minimum safety requirements. We hope the federal government and other provincial governments will follow our lead to not only fund the safety standards development but a national helmet use campaign"

B.C. is the first government to contribute to the CSA, which falls under the jurisdiction of the federal Ministry of Industry.

Richard Kinar – the North Vancouver safety advocate who started the whole helmet standard campaign after seeing two children injured in a collision on a north shore mountain – expects the contribution to have a domino effect.

"I think it will now be much easier to leverage money from other governments, particularly the federal government and the two ministries I see having the most at stake in this, the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Industry," said Kinar.

The government’s announcement made national news, attracting the attention of other provincial governments and federal ministries.

"It’s being talked about everywhere, it’s in all the papers, and everybody is on the same side on this. From this point I think it won’t be long before the government will come up with the rest of the funding. I’m really happy that the province decided to take a leadership role in this issue."

In the meantime the CSA will go ahead with the $50,000. It’s expected to cost $200,000 to develop the standard, using studies and other international standards as a starting point, followed by $300,000 for the education program.

While he says a CSA standard will be a positive first step, Kinar believes there is still more work to be done. For example, he would like to see ski and snowboard helmets, cycling helmets and small wheel recreation helmets included under the Hazardous Products Act. Hockey helmets are currently covered under the act, and as a result it’s impossible to buy or use a hockey helmet in Canada that doesn’t follow the CSA standards.

"Right now participation is optional for manufacturers and stores and helmets, but I think it would be preferable if parents that were shopping for helmets for their kids didn’t have to read the labels, they could just pick one and know that it meets a minimum standard for safety," said Kinar.

There are currently no standards for ski or snowboard helmet construction in Canada, although there are a variety of international standards. Helmets are also optional for both sports, although they are increasingly mandatory in competitions and in closed areas like terrain parks.

There have been six ski and snowboard deaths from head injuries across Canada this year, including two in B.C. None of the victims were wearing helmets.