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Body Armour Blog
Our website contains lots of information about how to choose the right body armour for your staff, but today we’re blogging about a word that doesn’t crop up much when it comes to body armour – style!
When body armour first started being issued to police in the 1980s, back when it was rigid or hardened and very uncomfortable, there were only two styles available – the white “covert” style (worn under the shirt for concealed protection) and the black “overt” style – worn as the outermost garment. Although body armour materials are now much more flexible, allowing wearers to manoeuvre more easily away from threats, the majority of suppliers are still offering just the two styles, and even then they often have to be made to order rather than held in stock.
At Keltic, we believe having a choice is really important, so we’ve developed seven different styles of body armour, all held in stock for next day delivery. Whichever body armour supplier you go with, it’s essential to have a choice of styles and to get samples before you place your order, so you can try before you buy. We can’t stress enough that your staff need to be comfortable in their armour – this doesn’t just mean choosing comfortable flexible armour (rather than hardened armour) but also picking a style they’re happy with, to ensure that they don’t think twice about putting on their armour when it counts.
As we’ve blogged previously, the Home Office Scientific Development Branch provides the certification for stab vest protection – KR1 (Knife Resistance Level 1) is the most common standard for stab protection, and this is often paired with SP1 (Spike Protection Level 1). However, it’s key to point out that SP1 doesn’t cover syringe protection, and that there isn’t a Home Office standard for syringe protection.
If your risk assessment states that your stab vest needs to include protection from syringes, it’s a matter of asking potential suppliers to visit you to demonstrate the syringe-resistant capabilities of their products. We think this is a must when you are dealing with such a crucial piece of protective equipment as stabvests. Please give us a call or post a comment if you have any queries on this matter.
In the 1980s all body armour was rigid or “hardened”, making it uncomfortable and difficult to move in. Thankfully, technology has moved on to the extent that flexible soft body armour is now available that provides equal or greater protection from all threats, including blunt trauma (body blows).
When it comes to blunt trauma, we recommend that you ask for a demonstration of the protection provided by the proposed bodyarmour supplier, because there is no Home Office standard for blunt trauma protection. Also, it’s crucial for wearers to be able to manoeuvre away from threats, and something key to add into the mix is the fact that they will find it easier to manoeuvre if their body armour is flexible.
All body armour uk suppliers should be happy to call in to see you to demonstrate the capabilities of their products, and this is a great way for you to confirm that they have Home Office test certificates and that all armour is full CE marked too.
The short answer is no. 99% of wearers can safely and comfortably wear standard sizes Small to XXXL, and good body armour can be adjusted at several points so it fits even more closely. For very tall wearers, it’s advisable to purchase bodyarmour with extra length to ensure the lower internal organs are adequately covered.
For wearers outside the standard S – XXXL and some ladies who require a ‘D’ cup fitting or larger, special sizes may be necessary both from a comfort and protection point of view.
If you have any concerns or queries on this important matter, just give us a call, or comment on this post.
Would you buy a second hand parachute that you didn’t know the history of, strap it to your back, jump out of a plane and hope for the best? Us neither. But people who buy second hand body armour, which could be well past its shelf life, could have been tampered with, and could have been subjected to trauma in the past that may impede its future performance, are doing exactly that.
We would liken it to “ringer” cars, that have been in a crash and superficially repaired, but may not meet even minimum safety standards and may crumple in a crash when it really matters.
If you’re a local authority, university, part of the NHS, or a blue chip company, we would strongly recommend only buying Home Office certified body armour, manufactured in a UKAS ISO 9001 accredited factory. This is the minimum standard for adequately fulfilling your duty of care for employees that could be exposed to stab, spike or ballistic risks.
Well, we hope that’s food for thought – have a great Bank Holiday weekend, and do click back for more body armour blogs next week!
Further to our post last week, what is body armour?, we wanted to talk about the most widely used type of body armour in the UK – stab vests. Stab vests protect the vital inner organs from knives and sharp/edged weapons.
In the UK, the Home Office Scientific Development Branch (HOSDB) is responsible for setting the standards for stab protection. Knife Resistance Level 1, known as “KR1”, and Spike Resistance Level 1, known as “SP1” is the stab protection recommended by the HOSDB for general police duties. Knife Resistance Level 2 (“KR2”) & Spike Resistance Level 2 (“SP2) is the stab protection recommended by the HOSDB for more dangerous police duties, such as armed patrol in higher risk situations such as escorting prisoners and airport patrols.
The “Spike” bit of “Spike Resistance” refers to spiked implements like screwdrivers, chisels etc. It’s important to note that unless a stab vest is certified to SP1 or SP2, it may not protect adequately from spikes. Spikes are a growing threat due to the ease of obtaining improvised weapons (more on this in future posts).
More importantly, however, please note that it isn’t illegal to sell stabvests that aren’t certified by the Home Office – these are widely available. The onus is on the employer to ensure their staff are adequately protected. In our experience, local authorities, blue chip companies and all organisations that wish to properly protect their staff and fulfill their duty of care insist on Home Office certified stab vests.
As well as knives and spikes, which are covered by the Home Office standards, there are other threats your staff may be exposed to which aren’t covered by a governing body. There is no Home Office standard for syringe protection or for blunt trauma (body blows) protection, but these are very significant threats. We’ll be looking at these threats in more detail in future posts.
Why not post a comment (or email or call us) with your thoughts on this very important topic?
Purchasing body armour can be a daunting task; after all it’s literally a matter of life and death. Every organisation has a duty of care to ensure its staff are properly protected from risks. However, by asking a handful of key questions and taking on board the guidance from the Home Office, the right decision can be made fairly simply, meaning you can rest easy that you’re giving your staff the correct protection.
To assist those who’ve been tasked with procuring body armour for their organisation, each week we’ll walk you through a different aspect of the body armour field, giving you a step by step guide to the key considerations you should be taking on board. This should then ensure you have all the information needed to make an informed choice as to which body armour to issue to your staff.
Our first instalment starts with the most basic question, what is body armour? This question is not as daft as it may sound – in a market where there are products that are described as “slash proof” that barely stop a Stanley knife; we believe clarity is of the utmost importance.
Bodyarmour is a protective system, designed to protect the wearer from death and serious injury while still being flexible and lightweight enough to allow easy movement in their job. It’s very important to stress that no body armour can protect from all threats in all circumstances – body armour is stab, spike or bullet resistant to a particular level. These levels are set by the Home Office, and anyone looking to adequately protect their staff should ensure they choose Home Office certified body armour. We’ll post more about Home Office protection levels in the next few weeks.
The two main categories of body armour are stab resistant (stab vests) and bullet resistant (ballistic vests). The best ballistic vests usually also incorporate knife protection as well (hence they are “dual purpose” vests) – but this is not always the case and it is very important to check. There are also other risks that your staff may be exposed to – for instance spikes (screwdrivers, ice picks), syringes and blunt trauma (body blows). These will all be dealt with in the coming weeks so please check back next week, and do post a comment or email us if you’d like any further information in the meantime.
Police community support officers have a role that is distinct from police special constables, community wardens and traffic wardens – their job is to support the police specifically in issues affecting the community’s quality of life e.g. antisocial behaviour. It’s unfortunately indicative of the growing violence in society that PCSO’s in Staffordshire will this month be wearing stab vests for the first time according to the BBC .
Understandably, some of the PCSO’s involved feel that this presents the wrong image. However there are stabvests on the market that are more subtle so it’s not immediately obvious that the wearer is wearing a stab vest. I also think that there’s an expectation these days that police-related authority figures will be wearing stab vests – the public understand that there’s a growing minority of criminals out there who do present a risk, and the police and PCSO’s who put themselves in harms way need to be protected accordingly.
Choosing the right body armour can be nerve-wracking because it is so important to get it right. You can find plenty of advice on our website about your Health and Safety responsibilities when buying bodyarmour in the UK. However we have been able to boil down the decision making process to three simple questions:
- Which threats do you think your staff will come across in the course of their work? The first thing to do is to carry out a risk assessment taking into account the risks your staff may face. This means thinking about the threats that are found in your local area (don’t forget to consult with your local police if possible) as well as the threats that are specific to their day to day work. Here is your starter for ten:
- Are your staff at risk from knives and spikes?
- Is there also a risk from guns?
- Also think about any additional threats of blunt trauma and syringes.
- Which Home Office protection level is required? You can check out the details of the level of stab, spike and ballistic protection recommended by the Home Office for the various jobs your staff perform by looking at our individual stab vests and ballistic vests pages.
- Which style is best for your staff? If you choose a style your staff like, they are more likely to wear their body armour protection whenever they are exposed to risk. Questions 1 and 2 are redundant if they don’t want to their vest because it’s not appropriate for their work or because they don’t like the way it looks. You can counter this by buying from a supplier who has a range of styles to suit every need.
See our stab vest and ballistic vest pages to see our seven styles of protective body armour – the largest choice of stock-backed styles in the UK.
Don’t forget, we’re offering free delivery and collection of samples throughout March.