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Sam Orbaum: Safety Information for Security Personnel - Body Armour and Protective Gear

Author: SuperUser Account/27 February 2015/Categories: Blog

Sam Orbaum, Body Armour Engineer at SafeGuard Armour discusses the importance of utilising the correct type of body armour protection for front line workers within the UK security industry.

For security personnel, each job brings its own risks. From guarding high-value clothing shop in a bustling retail centre to transporting significant loads of cash in an armoured vehicle, working within the security industry can be dangerous from time to time. The level of risk you face in your current assignment will vary based on multiple factors: how likely you are to encounter thieves/aggressive individuals, and whether they carry weapons or not; the demographic of people frequenting your shop/bar/business site etc.; and your level of personal protection.

To stay as safe as possible, you should always try to understand the amount of danger you face: performing a thorough risk assessment can help you prepare for any potential threats, no matter how unlikely they may seem. Many people working across the security industry wear body armour, either on a daily basis or as specific scenarios demand. For those of you new to the job, or to body armour in general, this guide explores the basics. 

How can Body Armour Help you?

The majority of us glean most of our body-armour knowledge from movies and police-based television dramas: there appears to be one all-purpose vest, able to stop knives and bullets of all types, no matter what. Sadly, this is not the case – no vest is guaranteed 100% effective, and each provides protection against specific threats only. Manufacturers today produce protective vests to keep you safe from various dangers – bullets, blades, and spiked weapons. Each type is designed in a particular way to provide maximum defence to the vital organs: should a bullet or blade puncture one of these, or sever an artery, the results can be fatal. 

You may never know exactly what might happen in any given shift, but being prepared can make all the difference: recently, a man pulled a knife on a security guard at a supermarket in Greater Manchester after being stopped on his way out – he held it to the guard's throat, without provocation, before fleeing the scene; while guards may expect a desperate shoplifter to pull a weapon if caught in the act, it's unreasonable to assume a member of the public will threaten your life just for stopping them briefly. However, armour should be worn at all times for any such extreme situation – even if you never need the protection it offers, at least you'll still be prepared. 

Stab Proof Vests

Stab vests are the most commonly worn type of protection amongst security personnel in the UK. Guards based at shopping centres in high-crime areas, door supervisors manning the entrance to popular clubs or bars, and cash-in-transit guards may all face the risk of assault with a blade in hostile situations. Stab proof vests are made with a material known as Kevlar: this fibre is woven together to form resilient layers, combined into a vest. These generate friction against blades to stop them from penetrating, and the knife will come to a halt as it passes through the top layers; this protection covers the front, back, and sides. 

Most stab vests are thin and lightweight enough to fit underneath your uniform like the Kevlar stab vests SafeGuard Clothing design, to keep you protected without affecting your professional attire or drawing undue attention (door supervisors, in particular, often wear stab vests beneath their shirts & jackets). Manufacturers today take great care to ensure these remain comfortable and cool during periods of prolonged wear, to prevent workers such as you overheating on the job. 

Stab vests can also carry spike protection, which is designed to stop needles and other pointed-tip objects tearing through: this may prove vital for guards operating in run-down areas with high rates of drug-abuse. You may want to wear protective accessories, too – anti-slash gloves are available to stop attackers causing injury to your hands whilst restraining them; a security guard in Edinburgh was stabbed in the hand with a hypodermic needle, and had to endure a six-month wait to learn if he'd been contaminated. This situation could have been avoided had the guard been equipped with protective gloves (though such incidents are rare). 

Bulletproof Vests

Bulletproof vests are also made with Kevlar, and are more complicated than stab/spike vests. Five levels of bulletproof armour are available, covering various types of ammunition, from the more common handgun ammunition to heavy-duty rifle-fire. Most security guards and door supervisors in the UK are unlikely to need these, though those based in high-profile banks and on cash-in-transit vans may face the risk of gunfire.  Most bulletproof vests are lightweight enough to fit underneath clothing, and are designed to absorb a bullet's energy on impact – this is then redistributed throughout the material, to reduce its force: the bullet is then stopped as it passes through the top layers. While severe injury is prevented, bruising and swelling May still occur. 

Finding the right body armour can be complicated and confusing, so you should always seek expert advice if in doubt. This Information was provided to BSIA by for the safety and use of individuals working in the UK Security Industry.

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