ONE of the longest established manufacturers of hurling helmets is predicting chaos next month when the GAA introduce the compulsory wearing of protective headgear.
Brendan Kelly of Coopers, who have been making helmets since the 1960s, says that up to 70,000 helmets may have to be scrapped because of confusion over safety standards.
And he says that with compulsory wearing due to come into operation in a few weeks, there may be up €3.5m worth of helmets scrapped.
“The GAA hasn’t thought this through at all. They are playing with fire here in terms of certifying helmets and face guards that haven’t been tested to the highest available international standards,” said Mr Kelly, who owns Coopers Sports in Ballinasloe, Co Galway.
His company have been making helmets for over 40 years but he says he is ‘amazed’ to hear speculation that his helmets are on the black list from next month onwards.
“Cooper helmets have been the choice of generations of hurlers. There has never been a problem with them.
“I have asked a whole series of questions about the testing procedure, but the NSAI & Croke Park have completely failed to answer my questions.
“We estimate there are 60,000 helmets in schools, and another 30,000 helmets in clubs.
“At least 75% of those were manufactured before the GAA outlined their new standard for helmets, so we can only conclude that they are now obsolete.
“That will mean about €3.5m worth of helmets being scrapped. And, unlike the Government car scrappage scheme, there is no obvious benefit for anyone,” said Mr Kelly.
He said there needed to be clear and transparent standards applied right across the board.
“There is a European PPE directive for helmets, which we meet, yet some high-level GAA officials are now telling clubs and officials that our helmet won’t pass their standard,” said Mr Kelly.
“Who is going to police all of this in practice? Will Henry Shefflin be asked to leave the field of play because he is wearing a Cooper helmet? Will clubs have to scrap all their existing stock of helmets and replace them with new ones?
“We know the helmet-testing environment inside out, and have always compiled with safety and other standards,” he added.
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