A social enterprise
Protec is a social enterprise based in Vietnam established by AIP Foundation, a U.S. 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization. Protec has a helmet factory in Hanoi with the retail stores throughout Vietnam and one store in Cambodia. Profits from the factory and sales operations are put back into public awareness campaigns and road safety education programs through AIP Foundation’s activities in Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia. There are currently 200 staff working for Protec, including 130 factory workers, some of whom are disabled and benefit from the modified assembly lines in the factory.
AIP Foundation was founded by Greig Craft in 1999. In 2000, former U.S. President, Bill Clinton launched Helmets for Kids in Vietnam—AIP Foundation’s first school-based program. At that time, helmets for the program were sourced from China. Greig recognized a need for high quality and affordable helmets in country, so he raised funds to establish the first social enterprise helmet assembly plant in Vietnam. During the planning phase, Greig and the team worked closely with helmet and road injury experts from the U.S., and attended training courses in Hong Kong to understand the mechanics of operating a helmet factory. Protec received its license to produce helmets in August 2001, and production began in 2002. When the Protec factory first began operating, it produced only 5,000 helmets per year. In 2006, Vietnam began to prepare for the implementation and enforcement of a mandatory helmet law—AIP Foundation played an instrumental role in getting the law passed—and helmet sales started soaring. In 2007, with the passage of the helmet law, Protec production and sales increased substantially.
Today, there are 200 staff working for Protec, including 130 factory workers, one third of whom are disabled. The factory produces approximately 500,000 helmets per year. The factory is located in Soc Son, 45 minutes outside of Hanoi, Vietnam. In addition to the factory, Protec operates two showrooms/distribution centers in Hanoi, three in Ho Chi Minh City, and one in Da Nang and Phnom Penh.
Mandatory Helmet Law
While plans for the Protec factory were underway in 2000, AIP Foundation and helmet scientist Dr. Terry Smith assisted the Vietnamese Government with the development of a national helmet standard. In 2000, the standard reflects the reality of road injuries and fatalities that most often result from motorcycle crashes in Vietnam, while integrating the local economic and environmental conditions which influence helmet production, sales, and compliance. In 2008, the mandatory helmet standard was revised to complement the 2007 law mandating motorcycle users to wear a helmet, and is now referred to as QCVN2:2008/BKHCN.
Despite the laws in place, 80% of helmets on the market in Vietnam do not meet the mandatory national helmet standard. The hot, humid weather and relatively high cost of quality helmets prevents motorcycle riders (95% of road users in Vietnam) from buying and wearing high quality helmets. In order to increase the helmet wearing rate of safe helmets, AIP Foundation and Protec introduced the world’s first “tropical” helmet, a light-weight, low-cost, and safe motorcycle helmet appropriate to warm and wet climates like Vietnam’s. The tropical helmet design fully meets the requirements of the mandatory helmet standard.
There are currently 14 different helmet models produced at the Protec factory, including: Hiway, Racing, Cool, Disco, Rosa, Poly, Kitty, Saga, Saga (Lux), UFO, UFO (lux), Techno, Viva, and Arizona. Some models are half-face helmets; a few are three-quarter-face, or full-face helmets. Protec safety experts measured over 5,000 Vietnamese heads in 2000 throughout the country to guarantee that these helmets fit consumers. Most helmets sold in the market are designed for “Western” heads which are more round; Asian heads are more oblong.
Vietnam Consumer Safety Association, 2008.
Global Status Report on Road Safety, WHO, 2013.
Protec uses EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) beads which are heat processed and transformed into a hardened, molded liner. The EPS liner is the most important part of the helmet and what protects the brain and absorbs the shock in a crash. 33850
Protec offers hard shell helmets and soft shell helmets, equally protective, although hard shell helmets are often preferred as they are more resistant to weather and the sun.
A moving assembly line (modified to accommodate wheelchair workers) facilitates component assembly, including chin straps, buckles, inner liners, visors, windshields, polishing, quality inspections & packaging.
Protec’s modern paint shop is capable of producing a wide range of colors, designs and graphics. Advanced printing technology allows customers to place their logo or slogan on the helmets. At the factory, there are two types of helmet designs: water decal designs and machine printing. With machine printing, the logo must include no more than five colors and fit within a small surface area of the helmet, whereas water decals may include as many colors as desired and can be applied to the entire surface of the helmet.
The Protec factory provides amenities to workers including meals, education, training, and recreation. Each year, employees attend a work retreat. Protec employs people from the Soc Son Province. Safety awareness and the well-being of all workers is a top priority.
The Protec factory has a state of the art helmet testing lab on site, to insure that all Protec helmets comply with the national helmet standard. The lab consists of four stations which test impact absorption, penetration, chin strap resistance, and helmet stability. All of the equipment comes from Canada, and international testing experts regularly visit the testing lab to conduct maintenance and train staff who work in the test lab. The standard varies according to the helmet design and purpose, but the classic Protec half-face tropical helmet must pass the following tests:
Impact absorption: A helmet is dropped from a standard height of 1.385 meters for hemi and 1,83 meters for flat. The EPS should be deformed after the fall, as that means the EPS absorbed all of the crash impact, instead of the head.
Penetration: A sharp stake weighing a standard three kilograms is dropped onto the helmet from a height of two meters. The stake should not penetrate through the EPS to the head form.
Chin strap resistance: A helmet is placed securely on the head form with the chin strap buckled and tightened. A hook is fastened to the chin strap which exerts a weight of 50 kilograms within 30 seconds on the chin strap. The chin strap should hold the weight for two minutes without breaking.
Helmet stability: The helmet is placed securely on the head form with the chin strap buckled and tightened. A hook is fastened to the back of the helmet and the helmet is pulled forward with a weight of 10 kilograms from a height of five meters. The angle of the helmet should not shift more than 30 degrees on the head.
All testing stations are connected to computers with Cadex software, which gather and store the testing data. The test results are sent along with the helmet order to customers.
The government frequently sends Protec a sampling of helmets from the market for testing. Other helmet manufactures also frequently send sample helmets to the Protec testing lab on an unofficial basis before sending their helmets to government testing facilities, to double check the helmet quality. WHO recently carried out a survey on helmet quality in partnership with the Hanoi School of Public Health, and they sent helmets, both used and new, to the Protec helmet lab for testing.
Protec sells its helmets through its seven Protec showrooms in Hanoi (two), Ho Chi Minh City (three), Da Nang (one), and Phnom Penh (one), and also contracts with corporations to provide large quantities of specially designed helmets for retail or donation. Sales to corporate companies make up the largest proportion of Protec helmet sales. Corporations often purchase helmets for their staff or as a gift for a promotional campaign. Protec currently supplies helmets to most motorcycle manufactures in Vietnam. A discount is offered on purchases of 50 helmets or more. The typical Protec helmet is priced at 10-15 USD.
A helmet should be replaced every three to four years, or after a crash. Protec offers a 50% discount to exchange a helmet after a crash.