Can You Wear an Expired Helmet?

No, it’s not advisable to wear an expired helmet. The helmet manufacturers gave it an expiration date for a reason. There are multiple reasons why you should not wear an expired helmet.

The helmet might appear clean and pristine at times because it hasn’t been worn much since it was purchased and If it reaches the end of its useful life, it should be discarded for the following reasons:

  • The helmet may be uncomfortable. This is because the material used to make the helmet may have degraded in quality, resulting in the helmet failing to provide enough support.
  • One of the most important reasons to avoid wearing an out-of-date or old helmet is that it contains foam, spreading infection if worn for an extended period. The foam interior collects dirt, dust, and muck quickly and is difficult to clean.
  • An expired helmet will not protect the person wearing it from harm in the same way that an unexpired helmet will if an accident should occur.

Firefighter’s attachment to their helmets

Firefighters have used helmets to protect themselves from heat, cinders, and falling items for generations. The history of the firefighter helmet is long and illustrious. It’s a part of their identity .Can You Wear an Expired Helmet?

As essential as the helmet is to the fireman emotionally and artistically, its ultimate purpose and worth reside in protecting the firefighter’s head.


Why are fire helmets leather?

Henry T. Gratacap, sometime between 1821 and 1836, is widely believed to have been the inventor. As a bag designer, he created a specially prepared leather for ocean travel that was robust and resistant to rot.

Gratacap was also a volunteer firefighter in New York City who realized that the leather from his suitcase would make an excellent fire helmet.

As a result, he designed a leather helmet – the first to incorporate an eight-part design known as “combs”

– that immediately gained favor among New York City firefighters and earned the moniker “New Yorker.” In the late 1800s, the FDNY adopted Gratacap’s helmet.

The development of Gratacap’s helmet

The Cairns brothers were the ones who added an identification emblem on Gratacap’s helmets. Since then, they’ve been at the forefront of firefighter helmet technology, helping to create what we know today as modern-day firefighting gear.

According to the New York Times, the founding members of Cairns & Brothers, a company that manufactured leather helmets, have been designated as one of the top proponents of their product’s use.

“Today’s leather is more robust and long-lasting than ever before. We’d be out of a job if it weren’t for its use in the fire service.”

Since the early 1850s, Cairns & Brothers has been the market leader in “lids,” maintaining a design identical to its inventor,

Henry J. Gratacap. Leather helmets have been described as “top-heavy and risky” in recent examinations conducted by consulting firms. For the most up-to-date information on pending lawsuits, go here.

Other leather accessories, such as front parts, belts, and radio straps, are also being included as a strategy to exclude all sorts of leather from the profession owing to the risk it poses.

Burn rooms are currently being used to test several types of leather for durability, sensitivity, moisture release, conductivity to electrical hazards, and melt factor.

Why do firefighters like leather helmets?

Thick-treated Leather Helmets are preferable because they are flame-resistant and highly resistant to splitting apart.

Hence the desired material for making most firefighter’s helmets is leather.

Are leather fire helmets better?

Leather fire helmets are better; Although, they are available in different types and forms. These types differ in use and superiority.

The Cairns Helmets of the 1800s has come a long way, and it is still a special fire helmet cherished by both young and old firefighters.

Tradition, however, hasn’t stopped Cairns Helmets from introducing changes to the leather helmet.

The Cairns N6A Houston leather fire helmet was introduced in 1993. It was the first leather helmet to meet the helmet criteria of NFPA 1971: Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting.

Each Houston leather helmet is still handcrafted, shaped, stitched, and trimmed to last for years and to meet NFPA 1971 standards (2018 Edition).

While the Houston has a vintage exterior, the interior is modern. It starts with replacing soft parts for easy removal and cleaning.

The Firefighter Cancer Support Network advocates removing delicate parts in all firefighting helmets as part of its cancer prevention guidelines for firefighters.

The Houston also has the safety and comfort elements that today’s firefighters look for in a fire helmet, such as:

  • Impact cap with a low profile provides improved thermal, impact, and penetration protection (Cairn’s fire helmets have some of the weakest ride-heights in the market).
  • High-temperature glass-filled face shield/goggle hardware that won’t rust.
  • Soft black Nomex chinstrap with postman slide and one-hand quick-release buckle for easy removal and adjustment.
  • With Jumbo Nomex Black earlap and a removable/washable sateen liner.

Why do firefighters not wear metal hats?

Anything made of metal heats up when combating a fire that’s the fact. As a result, firefighters do not wear them due to safety concerns and are not as well-made as modern helmets.

How long do leather fire helmets last?

From the date of manufacture, firefighter helmets have about 10-year service lifespan. Even if they are still in good shape, they must be removed when they reach that lifespan. The NFPA regulations include this provision:

“Standard on the Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1851.

After ten years from the date of manufacture, any part of the PPE ensemble (helmet, hood, gloves, boots, turnout coat, and pants) must be removed from service.”

Helmets have an expiration date, which many people are unaware of. Although Some types live longer than others (depending on the materials used), but they all have a limited lifespan.

When you buy a helmet from the market and its not brand-new , you have no way of knowing how old it is. Even if a helmet has never been worn, the materials gradually wear out and lose their effectiveness to absorb shock in the event of a crash.

A tag with the date of manufacture should be found under the inside lining of the helmet

Can leather fire helmets be recertified?

No helmets can be “recertified” because doing so would necessitate destructive testing, rendering the helmet useless.

Are used leather fire helmets safe?

They are safe to use and will last long for as long as the firefighter use them properly in the following ways:

  • Hygiene

The reasons listed below are all valid reasons to avoid purchasing a used helmet. Another reason to avoid buying a worn helmet is the issue of hygiene.

You wouldn’t want to wear a helmet covered in sweat, hairspray, and dander from other people. It’s simply unsanitary. Yes, a helmet can be cleaned in a variety of ways. However, this will never completely clean the helmet; it will just remove the worst parts.

Sweating equals wet body, which equals a soiled helmet. It’s simply not an option for you.

  • The interior of the helmet should fit your head

Every helmet should fit perfectly on the wearer’s head. It will keep the helmet in position and prevents it from slamming against the inner shell in the event of a crash.

Every helmet contains an inside lining, also known as an inner lining, that fits your skull over time. As a result, you’ll notice that your helmet fits better and better with time.

It is another crucial reason to avoid purchasing a used helmet!

  • They wear out with time

As previously stated, the material of the helmet can wear out over time. Several reasons accelerate this process.

When we consider the outer shell, one of the essential components is the sun. UV rays, rain, and temperature variations will all impact the helmet’s exterior shell over time.

Aside from that, EPC is utilized for the helmets inside the shell. Over time, this substance will harden, making it less useful as a shock absorber. It will eventually become tough, meaning it will not be able to absorb any impact.

When buying a (used) helmet, keep these items in mind. A helmet that has been held at a consistent temperature for a year or two will be less damaged. Another helmet that has been left outside for a year or two will deteriorate quickly.


While reading this article, I hope you learned some important things about the history, types, and reasons most fire fighters use leather helmets.

The lifespan and usability of the leather helmet were discussed. It is always advisable not to buy secondhand helmets as a firefighter. It simply isn’t worth it.

One may save a dollar or two, but this can risk one’s life. You don’t want to mess with your body’s control room, which is your head. Go to a reputable store and determine which (new) helmet best fits your head.

There are many variables of helmets that are categories by their quality and durability. The model of helmet will affect its lifespan. So, everyone cannot replace their helmet every five years.

But, at the end of the day, if you’ve worn your helmet for five years, you’re probably due for a replacement. It is perhaps wise to play it cautiously, especially if you have loved ones who will miss you.

history of the American firefighting helmet

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