Standard EN 1621-4 : 2013, specifies the procedures for the certification of airbag vests. However, the number of airbag vests that have in fact passed the tests can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

So, what does the certification of an airbag vest actually mean?

Well, it means that an official laboratory has conducted the appropriate tests that make it possible to certify that the product meets the requirements established in the applicable standard. In our particular case, mechanically activated airbags, the applicable standard is EN 1621-4:2013.

Within the Rock Tool Co range, our Touring Pro airbag vest has been laboratory tested, certifying that it has passed all the tests of the EN 1621-4:2013 standard.

The 10 key points of an airbag vest certified to EN 1621-4:2013

There are more than 35 points to be assessed and rated by the laboratory in an exhaustive inspection. However, so that it's not too boring and as a summary, we are now going to detail the 10 most interesting points for the end user, the motorcyclist.

1. Fabric used to make the airbag vest

The fabric used to make the vest must comply with standard EN 340. Particular attention is paid to the material that could be in contact with the biker.

2. Inspection of the "hard" parts of the entire product

A certified airbag vest must have no sharp edges or areas that could cut, impact with the biker or produce injuries in the event of an accident.

For those materials that need to be solid (for example the cartridge or its trigger system) there must be a layer of protective material which, in the event of an accident, mitigates the impact of these parts against the biker's body.

This impact mitigation system must ensure that the force of the impact is not more than 35 kN.

3. Airbag system activation time

One of the most interesting and critical points is the one to certify the activation time in the event of an accident.

For this test, high-speed cameras are used to reliably record this information.

A certified airbag vest guarantees that activation will always take place in less than 200 milliseconds.

4. Length of time that the air is maintained inside the certified airbag vest

In the same way as for car airbags, the air does not remain inside the vest for long periods of time.

In contrast to life jackets, the purpose of the airbag vest is to be activated as quickly as possible in order to protect against the impact. The activation time of a life jacket is not so important, however the air must remain inside the chamber in order to guarantee floatability.

This is logical, given that a motorcycle accident and its possible subsequent impact has a duration of just a few seconds.

So how long should the air remain inside the vest? Well, in the same way as the activation speed is measured, high-speed cameras record the time during which the airbag remains fully inflated. To be certified to EN 1621-4:2013, this time cannot be less than 5 seconds.

5. Inspection of the added protectors (back)

The EN 1621-4:2013 certification protocol also provides for the inspection of added protectors, such as the back protector.

In the case of our Touring Pro vest, the rider is offered double certification: EN 1621-4:2013 (airbag) and 1621-2 (maximum back protection). 

Take note! 1621-1 is the basic level of protection, 1621-2 is the maximum level, with an impact absorption capacity that is double that of the basic level.

6. Testing of the activation mechanism

The activation mechanism is another key point that the laboratory rigorously tests.

The energy required to activate the system is measured and must be <5.0 j (which is a joule here)

The entire motorcycle-rider connection mechanism (the activation lanyard) is also subject to exhaustive testing in order to guarantee its safety and that its  breaking point is at least 4 times that required to activate the airbag vest.

7. A certified airbag vest must withstand three impacts in each protection area.

In order to be certified to EN 1621-4:2013, the laboratory subjects each airbag vest model to three impact tests.

The first impact test is made with the first inflation (the cartridge pre-installed in the airbag vest).

The second and third inspections are made after deflating the vest and resetting the system (replacing the cartridge).

The vest must withstand the three impact tests, complying with all the parameters required by the laboratory.

8. Ergonomics and comfort of a certified airbag vest

The ergonomic tests are focused on guaranteeing the rider's comfort and safety. For example, the following is tested:

- Airbag vest fit, firm but comfortable.

- Ease of use of the motorcycle when wearing the vest (controls, handlebars, etc.). It is important to note that this point is checked with the airbag deflated and inflated.

- Field of view, ease of movement. The airbag must not interfere.

- The vest must be comfortable and must not restrict the rider's normal movements or breathing.

- And one curious test: the deflated vest must give the rider sufficient mobility to pick up an object from the floor.

9. How the tests are conducted during the EN 1621-4:2013 certification process:

The certificationtest is performed in an environment that is as neutral as possible. Specifically, the product must remain at least 48 hours in a place with a temperature of  23º C (+2º / -2º C) and an environmental humidity of 50% (+5% / -5%).

As far as sizes are concerned, during the different tests, the certification laboratory checks all the sizes available. In the case of certified airbag vests, this is not so decisive as, for example, helmets, which may change the head size. However, it is still important and they are therefore tested.

A high-speed camera is used for the speed measurements.

For those measurements that seek the breaking point (straps for example), dynamometers are used.

It is a thorough and complex process in which all the tools and devices used in the inspection procedure must also be certified in order to guarantee correct measurements. This certification of the tools used permits a maximum error of +-4%.

Even the laboratory itself needs to have passed the certification of conformity that , in turn, allows it to certify the corresponding standards, in accordance with the European standards, in this case EN 1621-4:2013.

10. Is there any other type of certification for airbag vests apart from the 1621-4:2013 standard?

There are a number of laboratories that even perform their own tests, although most adapt to the model of the EN 1621-4:2013 standard, as detailed in its descriptive text: Motorcyclists' protective clothing against mechanical impact. Part 4: Motorcyclists' inflatable protectors . Requirements and test methods.

For further information, click on this link.

Example of labelling

This is the standardised label that should be on a certified airbag vest.

AIRBAG refers to the type of product.

The motorcyclist icon indicates that it is suitable for use with vehicles of this type.

The digit 2 identifies the protection level.

B refers to the area of protection ""B" BACK "FB" FULL BACK".

Finally, at the bottom of the label there is the identification of the standard relating to the certification /approval, in this case for mechanically activated airbags, it should indicate EN 1621-4:2013.

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