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By Barend ter Haar


You may see in a manufacturer’s literature that their product has been ‘Crash Tested’. It is important to understand there is no one crash test, nor a single testing process like the European NCAP in the car industry.  You really need to ask: to what tests, were these relevant to my application, and whether it passed (i.e. is the item ‘Crashworthy’?).

In the wheelchair world the crash tests for the chairs are covered in ISO 7176-19, the vehicle tie down systems in the ISO 10542 series, and the seating systems in ISO 16840-4.  In the latter this covers only those postural support devices that are integral to the seat.  What it also tests is the means of attaching the seating system to a wheelchair, but since the standard uses a surrogate wheelchair, the tests give no indication of how any specific wheelchair might perform in use with that seating system, in a crash test.

Strength testing of postural support devices is covered in ISO 16840-3, but these tests relate to items designed for assisting the occupant’s positioning in the wheelchair in normal wheelchair use, and are not designed for testing devices designed as vehicular restraints.

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There is no ISO crash test for after-market head restraints (nor head rests, nor head supports): however, the suitability of a head support used in a wheelchair for transportation needs to be covered by a risk assessment as to whether the occupant is better protected against the forces experienced in accelerating, braking, or cornering, by head protection, than without.


Dr ter Haar has been involved in seating and mobility for over 30 years, including lecturing internationally, and developing international seating standards.

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