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Communications director, Safeguard Armour

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Chris Taylor is communications director for Safeguard Armour, the Premium Body Armour Manufacturer and Supplier In The UK.
March 23, 2015


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Which Protective Clothing is Best for Security Personnel?

The security industry relies on the skill, professionalism and dedication of thousands of brave men and women willing to ensure the safety of others.

Whether working in a bustling shopping centre, patrolling a private residential estate, providing close protection to a controversial politician, or helping an A-list celebrity go about their business without unwanted attention, security personnel face various risks and dangers in their line of work.

Bodyguards, door supervisors, and security guards are all likely to encounter aggressive individuals at one time or another. Body armour is worn by many workers across the industry, providing essential protection against a range of threats.

But if you’re new to the industry, how do you know which vests are best for you? What advantages do they offer?

Protective vests

Depending on the line of security you specialise in, you may face different threats than colleagues operating in other areas.

As a bodyguard, for example (especially one working with high-profile politicians or other public figures), the threat of assassination attempts and aggressive crowds may be a very real possibility; working with a recognisable pop star or actor may mean you need to negotiate frenzied packs of fans or, in rare cases, keep stalkers at bay.

Working as a retail-based security guard, you may face armed thieves raiding a high-value jewellery store or shoplifters brandishing knives.

Door supervisors meet dozens upon dozens of people – some familiar, some strangers – on an average shift, and might face aggressive individuals who take exception to being refused entry or requests to leave the bar or club.

In all of these situations, body armour of various kinds can protect you from injury and, possibly, worse.

stab vest

Photo: KRoock74 under CC SA 3.0

Edged blade armour

Otherwise known as stab vests, edged blade armour is made with multiple layers of Kevlar, a fibre woven into tight grids, with impressive rigidity: this causes friction against blades, and stops slicing and stabbing attacks.

Stab vests are generally lightweight and comfortable enough to wear underneath your required outfit, whatever that may be – uniform, smart suit, or casual civilian clothing.

These are available in three different levels, each offering a specific amount of protection against attacks made with varying degrees of energy. Security guards and door supervisors are likely to find they need stab vests if operating in areas where knives may be a known threat, and if shoplifters are targeting high-value shops.

Spike protection

Not all sharp objects used in an attack are blades – some may be such domestic items as hypodermic needles or pieces of wood sharpened to points. In some cases, if this point is fine enough, it may well pass between the fibres of a stab vest.

To protect against these threats, vests carrying spike protection feature an even-tighter weave to trap the tips – though the risk of attack with a needle may seem unlikely, if you’re in a situation which means people may use whatever objects they have to hand, adding this type of protection to your vest (if possible) could save you from injury or, in the case of assault with a hypodermic needle, contamination or sickness from harmful substances.

ballisticBallistic armour

Ballistic vests (generally referred to as ‘bulletproof’ armour) may be of most use to bodyguards, though some security guards may well believe gunfire is a viable risk: those working to protect banks or stores selling highly expensive goods – be they jewellery or electronics – could well expect to face professional career-thieves armed with firearms.

Bodyguards protecting clients on the receiving end of death threats and widespread hatred may well face assassination, though there is no guarantee of safety even on clients lacking such obvious opposition: you need to be ready for all situations.

Ballistic vests are produced in various types to offer protection against multiple forms of ammunition, in five levels: IIA, II, IIA, III, and IV. Each level provides defence against specific bullets fired at set velocities, from the more easily-accessible 9mm rounds to high-powered, armour-piercing .30 calibre bullets.

Each vest is designed to stop these bullets by absorbing the force of the impact, and creating friction against the bullet as it passes through the top layers of Kevlar (bruising and swelling are still a common occurrence, given the speed the bullet travels at when it strikes).

Levels IIA to IIIA are made with varying layers of Kevlar, while those at level III and IV feature steel and ceramic plates respectively, to stop high-velocity gunfire. Ballistic armour typically provides protection to the front, back and sides.

Importance of visibility and getting the right size

When choosing body armour, you should ensure you consider two key factors: the level of visibility you require, and sizing.

Body armour of all types is available in two styles: covert (worn underneath clothing) and overt (worn over clothing). Depending on your current assignment, you’ll need to choose one over the other.

For example, a security guard patrolling a busy shopping centre may well wear a uniform, in which case armour can be worn over or underneath (though most would place it underneath, to avoid obscuring their uniform); when hired to patrol in a low-key capacity, you would wear civilian clothing, demanding a covert vest to maintain your low profile.

Bodyguards and door supervisors generally always wear their armour underneath smart clothing. Today’s covert vests are made with breathable fabrics to ensure greater comfort during prolonged wear, and even ballistic vests at levels III and IV can be lightweight enough for concealable use.

Regarding size and fit, finding the best for your shape is essential – wearing the wrong one can still leave parts of your torso exposed, and cause discomfort.

Make sure you measure your height and chest before you order, and compare the results with your supplier’s size chart for maximum accuracy. Body armour is too important to leave to chance, so if ever in doubt, make sure you seek expert advice.

Listen to the IFSEC Insider podcast!

Each month, the IFSEC Insider (formerly IFSEC Global) Security in Focus podcast brings you conversations with leading figures in the physical security industry. Covering everything from risk management principles and building a security culture, to the key trends ahead in tech and initiatives on diversity and inclusivity, the podcast keeps security professionals up to date with the latest hot topics in the sector.

Available online, and on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts, tune in for an easy way to remain up to date on the issues affecting your role.


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John Adejoh Ocheje
John Adejoh Ocheje
May 11, 2019 7:17 am