5 year age limit on seat belts/harness

I'm very much in favor of strong evidence based safety standards.  For instance, the rules on tire age limits are quite reasonable and there is a lot of data to support them. 

I'm just having a hard time finding any evidence that age alone has any impact on belt performance (try a search on 'seat belt deterioration').  Excessive wear, cuts, and improper installation are much bigger risk factors.

If the webbing is subject to deterioration, I would think we would see this show up in traffic deaths involving 20, 30 and 40 year old cars where seat belts failed.  There would be law suits galore and segments on '60 Minutes'  (Note there have been segments on age related tire failures).

The only racing death I've found that was possibly seat belt related was Dale Earnhardt, and there was no indication that the failure was due to the age of the belts (he was in a new car, so presumably the belts were new).

Wow, Deven, this is a fraught topic.  I'm with you on evidence-based safety rules, and there doesn't appear to be much evidence that seat belts or harnesses wear out in 5 years - even with UV radiation, which many of our garaged cars don't experience in great quantity.  Stretching (e.g., in a crash) or fraying would be a key replacement indicator, of course.  I'd guess that some of our more expert members might set us straight on this if we're wrong.

Then there's Dale's crash.  Lot of controversy about that; e.g., see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...of_death_controversy  Current best theory seems to focus on lack of a HANS rather than faulty or broken seat belt.

I think there are other safety requirements in the Rules that are not evidence based.  For example, the requirement to have your blood type on your helmet.  The EMTs are probably not going to give you blood, more likely plain saline after plugging the leak.  Some air ambulances apparently still carry O-negative blood, but that's an exception.  When you get to the hospital, the ER doctor would be committing medical malpractice to assume the blood type on your helmet (which is probably still sitting at the accident scene anyway) is correct; the emergency room personnel would always do a blood type match before giving blood to a patient.  That's just one of many examples.

Don't get me wrong.  I believe safety is extremely important in our dangerous sport.  But I also think there may be some rules that seem to carry over from year to year without a solid basis.  These little indignities probably keep the numbers of competitors down, so maybe that's a good thing if you want to get a trophy...

 

Ted, thank you, interesting reading.  Sounds like UV is a big factor if belts are exposed continuously.  My Simpson harnesses were rated at 18,000 psi when new, and I don't think my chest was rated anywhere near that, so even an 80% degradation would still put them at 3,600 psi breaking strength.  Nevertheless, I think you have provided Deven and me with some pretty good data - again, thank you!

The article states that the webbing loses half its strength in one year when left outdoors.  I believe that, but those conditions are so vastly different from real world usage as to render them almost irrelevant.  Those conditions are not worst case or worst worst case.  They are the ludicrous case.

A roll cage left outside in a puddle of water would probably lose half its strength in a year too.  Shall we replace those every five years?

I'm very safety conscious and nothing I've written here should be interpreted otherwise.  Unless I see evidence to the contrary, I just think that money spent replacing 5 year old seat belts would be better invested in other safety precautions like buying new tires, upgrading a helmet, etc.

As you know Deven, BBORR has a similar issue with the belts.  What it gets down to is to avoid possible injury and law suits and keeping it simple for the lowest common denominator.  Use a very conservative approach and hopefully eliminate any chance of interruption.   One way to reduce the cost for belt replacement is re-web (recertify).  Crow offers that service for their belts at a significant savings.  I believe other manufactures also offer a re-web service; however, I know Simpson does not offer that service.    

http://www.crowenterprizes.com/Pages/Recert.html

There is an entirely different perspective that I did not consider until I did tech inspection for another organization.  

How is the inspector to know worst-case from best-case on any particular car at and particular time?  The belts may have been left in a car in the California sun all year or they may have been removed and stored in a climate controlled garage.  In order to make the Tech. life reasonable (and the inspection time livable for the racer) the organizations tend to apply worst-case to everybody, like it or not.

I guess I'm more one for putting things in perspective in the big picture. I paid $140 each for the Simpson belts in my car. I spent about the same for a tank of race fuel and that was gone in 90 miles. The monthly payment for the Hagerty insurance for the car is $250 monthly and doesn't even cover the event. I change the engine oil after each race which $120 in materials. Entry fees, hotel, meals, fuel. All this dwarfs the cost of something like belts; which you can still flip on eBay or craigslist for partial revovery from someone who just wants to put them in a Razor or other off-road buggy. 

Mike, you are right and the faster you go the more the cost go up. 2 years for belts, yes for 2 seats. Fuel to run $280, oil cost for 1 change $400 plus filter. Rooms and food for 4 people, fuel for tow vehicle. ! tires for trailer, they sure don't last. 3 complete sets since 2010. So yea belts are pretty cheap, don't I know I want them to be in great shape if I need them.

As I read through all of your comments, I read that only one or so of you has read the SFI actual testing criterion. Please do if you have not. You will see that no only do they expose the belts to extreme UV they also soak them in water (maybe salt water) and leave them in the dark so they will not dry out before the next days testing.  I know of very little that the universal solvent (water) will not degrade over time along with heat and extreme exposure to the sun.  If we were to adopt any new rules it would be to to standardize all of the safety rules to mimic one of the largest racing organizations like NHRA or NASCAR. I would at least like to see all three Open Road sanctioning organizations use a standard set of rules no matter what those rules might be. I hear (hearsay) that all three organizations use the same parent insurance company so why not the same rules.

" I would at least like to see all three Open Road sanctioning organizations use a standard set of rules no matter what those rules might be. I hear (hearsay) that all three organizations use the same parent insurance company so why not the same rules."

If I could just get those powerball numbers correct, ... I always joke about one of the first things I'd do is buy all the "little" race organizations, and then as you said standardize the rules based on the "large" (NHRA, NASCAR) organizations. I'd include the land speed organizations also as their rules are quite a bit different than the ORR races (even at similar speeds).

~DaVe

Don't forget ORR is nothing like NASCAR or NHRA, in a 400 lap NASCAR race they have 800 drag race with slamming on the brakes for the next turn also 800 times. I can see how this can stress the belts by how hard they continue to get pulled on. With what we do, that is an acceleration at the start line which doesn't really pull on the belts. There are 2 places you might apply the brakes, the narrows and the finish line. Only the finish line is where we apply the brakes hard to slow from over 200 MPH before the finish pits. Even when Bob set the new record he did not do any hard braking. That said we put very little stress on the belts. 

I'm not sure that the SFI Foundation labels are as much related to real-world deterioration data on the belts as they are on their revenue model of selling labels to manufacturers.  In that regard, FIA-certified belts have a 5-year expiration - wonder what  evidence-based data supports that discrepancy? 

The SFI Foundation was started by SEMA (i.e., by the manufacturers) and the Foundation's  revenues (totaling only about $1.7 million annually) come primarily from the manufacturers.  IMHO, the Foundation would seem to have a vested interest in testing things so aggressively that they can point to deterioration happening as quickly as possible so they can sell more labels more quickly.

I agree with Tom that most if not all of the safety rules are either revenue or lawsuit driven. The SFI testing of restraints is above and beyond. Look to the Air Force or Navy and ask a maintenance office how often they were required to update the restraints in the airplanes that by the way, sit in the open most of the time including the high speed stops on the aircraft carriers. Never unless obviously damaged.

I will say one more thing concerning the belt age issue. Sandhills (SORC) events rules were adopted from SSCC rules in that SSCC helped get them started. Having said that, I suggest that you look at their rules concerning seat belts.

What they mean is within the date and in as new condition. I agree with everyone and have seen this discussion in many different sanctioning bodies. After seeing this discussion for 20+ years I think it is just beating a dead horse.

just my .02 Rocket

I read their rules again Rocket after reading your comment of "what they mean", but I do not see any wording concerning SFI Dates. Could you please explain how you determined what they mean instead of what they indicate in their rule book. I have a set of belts that were new in 2009 (SFI Tag) that I just removed from a friends car and they look the same as new. 

I agree with Lanny page 12 section 6-a States (All belts must be "as new" condition). And that is for the fasts class. No where did I find any thing about dates, if it is now written how do you know "What they mean".  For me I would rather have 10 year old belts that have been stored in the car in the garage the 1 year old belts that are discolored and have tears in them.

I have no dog in this fight (Touring class). However, I flew in the Navy and cannot remember maintenance replacing a seatbelt and harness due to age (see Lannys previous comment).  I owned a C172 for 21 years, inspected annually, and never replaced the seatbelts. Not trying to stir the pot but it appears the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) and Navy practice would fail SFI (?).

Other than the harsh environment like sun and salt air and the deterioration those things cause to the harness, it not a good comparison with aviation stuff.  Totally different situation.  Having spent 20 years in the Air Force as a helicopter and fighter pilot, I can say that I never saw maintenance change out a harness based on time.  In the aircraft it really just holds you in the seat during maneuvers, turbulence, and of course for the Navy and Marine Corps folks--The carrier landings.  There are many parts on an aircraft that are time change items regardless of condition.  I believe the harness was a visual inspection change item.   It was never really intended to keep you in the seat during a severe accident.  The forces during an aircraft accident are so severe that our bodies are ripped apart even if the seat harness kept us in the seat.  The helmets we wore are also joke compared to the SFI helmets we wear while driving down 318, and by the way, they did not have an expiration date.  They were basically there to hold communication equipment and the oxygen mask to our head and face.  Bottom line--Is the 4 or 5 year rule appropriate for the way we use the safety harness?  Probably not.  Are the safety equipment manufacturers and the various governing bodies forcing us to buy safety equipment well before it truly wears out.  Yep--$$$$$.   In the big scheme of things, if I want to cruise down 318 at 155 I'll replace the safety equipment as required. 

No.  All the harness does is hold you in the seat and you and the seat are ejected together.  All of the force of the rocket motor pushes you into the seat.  When you separate from the seat and the parachute inflates there is some stress on the harness that is connected from you and the risers on the parachute.  To minimize that opening shock during a high speed there is a smaller parachute that opens first.  In extreme high speed conditions the parachute system won't deploy until you and the seat slows down.  The parachutes which are packed into the seat are inspected and maintained by a separate group of folks with specialized training.   I believe there is a time change requirement for the parachute and its associated parts.  I know that they remove the parachute from the seat at a specific time interval and repack/inspect/replace and put it back into the seat.  Parachute malfunctions are very rare--Which is a good thing.

I called the manufacturer of my seat belts (Team Tech Motorsports) to get there thoughts on this issue.

Their belts are certified by SFI.  Every two years they have to send SFI all their configurations of belts for testing.  Up until 2017 their belts were labeled with the manufacturing date of the belt.  Since 2017, the belts are labeled with the expiration date of the belt (which is two years per SFI).  Belts manufactured between January and June 2019 will expire June 2021.  Those manufactured between July and December 2019 expire December 2021.

This may cause some confusion when teching a car in a class with a 5 year belt limit.  A labeled belt saying expires June 2021 would really be good until 2024 (five years since manufacture in 1H'2019).

Team Tech will remanufacture out of date belts which saves about $120 per set versus new (they reuse the metal parts).  I asked what was the condition of the belts that were returned for replacement?  In many cases, horrible.  It seems they sell a lot of harnesses to off road racers and these belts are abused and left outside all year long.  Some belts are so bad that Team Tech sends them back to the owner for cleaning before they will work on them. 

Maybe this explains the SFI testing procedure?  I certainly see why belts as described above would need replacement every two year, but for the rest of us who care for our gear ...

That date that SFI puts on their SFI labels is a validation date, not an expiration date.  It is still up to the governing bodies to decide the expiration date.  The problem arises when the manufacturers don't include a manufacture date.  Because SFI only issues the validation tags twice a year (June and Dec), it makes it difficult to determine the expiration because there is no date of manufacture on most harness belts.  SFI has been having problems with counterfeit SFI tags, particularly overseas.  This new procedure is supposed to fix that issue.  I had a long discussion with the owner of Crow.  They label their belts with the SFI validation tag and the date of manufacture.  Lanny and I wrote a long article with photos about this issue.   It was sent to all three ORR organizations in order for their tech inspectors to know what is going on with the SFI validation tag vs the manufacturers date of manufacture and subsequent expiration dates as determined by each governing body.   I suspect most volunteer tech inspectors don't have a clue about the manufacture dates vs. the SFI validation date.  I suspect that some of the tech inspectors, out of ignorance, will  fail you during your tech inspection with that validation date.  The smart way it should work is:  For a 4 year expiration date, you should add two years to the SFI validation date on the tag.   Bottom line--If your belts only have the SFI validation tag and no manufacture date, you better keep your receipt with the date of purchase. 

We have been trying to get the ORR organizations to rewrite their rules to clear this up.  Using the SFI valid date as an expiration date is just plain stupid and not necessary.  It will only cause people to waste money, or show up at an event and get told that you can’t race.    It is a lengthy explanation, but as mentioned in my earlier post, it had to do with counterfeiting SFI tags and not telling the governing bodies when the belts expired.  If that where the case they would have used the word expire.  It definitely makes it confusing and maybe that was a side benefit—Getting folks to buy more product well before it is needed.  The ORR organization can head this confusion off by updating their rules with a clear explanation.  

Let me explain the SFI validation date tag installation procedure.  The tags are sent out twice a year to the manufactures with either a June or Dec month and a year, 2 years in the future.  Depending on when the belts are manufactured, the validation date will be somewhere between 2 to 2 1/2 years after the belts were manufactured.  Example: A belt made in March of 2019 will have a SFI tag that says June 2021.  All of the belts made from Jan to June would have the same SFI valid date of June 2021.  The procedure for the December SFI tag would be the same for the months of July to Dec.   

 

My Crow belts say "VALID UNTIL DEC 31, 2020"  And a manufacture Date of 2018 JUNE.  

So here is one vote for the OR organizations going off of Manufacture date.

So my question is  what do I need to do as a participant to get the racing organizations to recognize the 'Manufacture Date" +5 years as the expiration date?  

Thank-you

Jess

 

Jess, the problem is that most of the manufacturers don’t put the manufacture date on the belts any more.  Crow went beyond what SFI requires in order to help their customers.  There is no reason all of the manufacturers couldn’t do the same.  The fact that Crow  goes the extra mile with the manufacturer date, plus they will recertify your expired belts with rewebbing makes me a life long customer.  The big name “Simpson” does neither.   I think the other manufacturers are hoping the the validation date will be interpreted as an expiration date and you will buy more belts. 

Ken, then it appears to be consumer complaints are in order, in other words we the users of harnesses writing to the companies demanding the labels.  We, in the OR community, are small in numbers but if one doesn't try then most definitely nothing will be done.     I'm with you on the ORR organizations coordinating this validation point.  Thank-you (and to  others I'm sure) for what you have done and are trying to accomplish.  Jess

 

Jess, As you said small group = No power.  But just within the ORR community, if the organization leadership would write their ORR rules to address this issue, we the racers, could live with and support it.  It is very simple.  Since the validation date is not an expiration date, use it as a reference point to establish an expiration date for us in the ORR world.  Remember, the belt was manufactured somewhere between 2 and 2 1/2 years before the tagged SFI validation date.   Example:  You take the valid date as marked on the SFI tag and add 3 years for a 5 year expiration.  For the Unlimited Class with the 2 year limit, the validation date is their expiration date.   I believe this new SFI tagging procedure started in 2017.  It may be an issue for the SSCC September race this year.  It will be an issue next year for sure. 

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