Lifespan of PPE: Helmets

Lifespan of PPE: Helmets

One question that we often get asked at R3 SAR Gear is "what is the lifespan on PPE?" Firstly, the answer depends on the item, but also, it often varies from brand to brand. In this article, we're going to take a look at some of the factors affecting the lifespan of helmets, as well as what the manufacturers advise for the products which we stock.

Early retirement

Most people have an intuitive idea of when a helmet is past its best. Obvious factors, such as being dropped on to a hard surface, sustaining a heavy blow, or the presence of visible damage should be a call to action for users to retire - or at the very least, quarantine a helmet whilst a suitable replacement is sourced. But it isn't always a major event that leads to the end of a helmet's service life. More often than not, the everyday wear and tear that accumulates on this vital piece of protective equipment can be a good indicator of when it's time to trade in.

Some manufacturers offer guidance in the form of inspection procedure instructions for their brandTell-tale signs to look out for include: 

  • Any damage to the shell that could be considered more than "superficial." 
  • UV damage that presents as "sun fade" giving a bleached appearance to the original colour.
  • Damage to, or total absence of hardware critical to the functioning of the helmet - a cracked chinstrap buckle, for example.
  • Torn, fraying or fluffy webbing.
  • Damaged, deformed or loose/missing foam. 
  • "Stress marks" - white lines from bending of the plastic shell.

Clearly, due to the nature of the environment in which we find ourselves working in, equipment doesn't look brand-new for very long and at some point, a judgement call has to be made on the acceptable level of wear. If there is ever any doubt about a helmet's serviceability, it makes sense to remember the aim of PPE - protection from serious or fatal injury and act in favour of the safest option - retirement of the helmet. 

Maximum lifespan

Whilst it is possible to give general advice on the early retirement of helmets, the maximum lifespan of a product is set by individual manufacturers. As with most questions of this nature, the only definitive answer is: refer to the manufacturer's technical notice - which can usually be found on their website as well as packaged with the product itself. The answer varies across different brands and for this reason, we have briefly outlined the manufacturer's guidance for the helmets which we stock below. These numbers refer to the maximum possible lifespan for a helmet that has been cared for both in use and storage, and not subjected to an adverse incident, modification, excessive UV, extremes of temperature or chemicals.


Petzl is probably the brand that offers the most clarity on the lifespan of their helmets. Written in the technical notice for each model, in a diagram as below, the lifespan is usually date of manufacture, plus ten years. Petzl also highlight that their items of PPE should be replaced when "it becomes obsolete due to changes in legislation, standards, technique or incompatibility with other equipment"  - which is worth baring in mind. Whilst we don't hold stock of Petzl helmets, we are able to access any of the models in their sports or professional range with short lead times.



One of our best selling work at height helmets is the Kask Super Plasma PL. Kask helmets have a ten year shelf life, when stored away from sunlight or direct sources of heat. In the user manual Kask "advise replacing it after 5 years, because over time its capacity for protection decreases due to the ageing of the materials."

Sweet Protection

As always, Sweet acknowledge that many factors will shorten helmet life. Their website clearly states though, that any helmet should be replaced after approximately 3 years of "normal use." This includes both the Rocker and Wanderer models that we stock on the site.


Spreu "Bumper"

The Spreu Bumper helmet is a classic design favoured by outdoor centres and water rescue teams for its ability to fit a broad range of users. It has a ten year shelf life and a 7 year maximum service life which "can be reduced to zero by a specific event."




Dual-rated as both an EN 1385 (helmets for canoeing and white water sports) and EN 12492 (helmets for mountaineers), the MP1 helmet  has an impressive 10 year service life.


Whilst these numbers represent the maximum possible lifespan of a helmet that is well cared for and stored properly, one adverse event could be enough to stop using it. As with all PPE, a regular schedule of inspection - including pre and post use by the wearer, is recommended to pick up on any possible cause for concern early.

For more information on correct use and inspection of PPE always refer to the information provided by the manufacturer. All information provided above was accurate at the time of writing.