The task of choosing the right stab vests or body armour
When charged with the task to purchase body armour or stab vests, the choice between overt or covert stab vests can be of immense importance. Wearing overt body armour will often be perceived as confrontational and therefore can lead to an escalation rather than 'prevention' of aggressive behaviour or action. I am personally absolutely sure that the advantage of wearing covert body armour will always outweigh any benefit overt protective body armour can offer. Dealing with intoxicated and aggressive individuals or other people who have a serious dislike for authority in general or are unhappy with your organisations performance or behavior, means dealing with individuals who can overreact at anytime to anything you say or do. Too often these incidents result in severe injuries, serious harm or even death.
Stab vests and body armour do provide an effective solution to these many professionals who require extra protection in their chosen job role. Frontline professionals working for law enforcement, emergency services or enforcement sections with local governments will of course acknowledge and monitor the ever so visible increase in lack of respect and the many change within occupational health & safety regulations and legislations.
Having to make the best possible decision when purchasing and issuing body armour or stab vests is essentially a decision which can make the difference between coming home safely after a day of work, ending up in a hospital, or not coming home at all.
I have personally carried out so many research projects into the many advantages of covert body armour and stab vests, and the majority of these research projects clearly proof that choosing covert stab vests will most likely result in a lower risk of being attacked while on duty - compared to wearing overt or visible stab vests.
Wearing covert body armour will allow you to deal with a potentially hostile situation, primarily using excellent diplomacy, negotiation or communication skills, while being effectively protected in case the situation does escalate and turn violently. Wearing covert stab proof vests allows you to use your great and friendly personality to deescalate a situation, where overt body armour will tell people immediately who you are and who you represent, and this can understandably be a huge disadvantage sometimes.
Overt stab vests or body armour can of course be very useful for some professionals and in certain situations. For me however only if you really want to be recognized and seen as ‘authority', or someone acting as a visual deterrent or someone actively assisting the law enforcement. Overt stab vests can also make a lot of sense if you are frequently required to put on and take off the body armour very frequently during your line of work. Overt body armour would therefore be more ‘convenient'.
So, which is better? Rigid of flexible stab vests?
Well, for me this is a fairly simple question even I am fully aware that the majority of frontline staff would disagree with my decision and put comfort before safety, meaning they would prefer flexible and soft body armour. I would never put comfort before protection... I never did it in the past and certainly will not do it in the future. A rigid body armour will offer you one great advantage and this advantage would make up for a little bit of discomfort.
Body armour and stab vests produced or manufactured using materials such as hardened polymer composites (also used for motorbike helmets) instead of Kevlar, Spectra, Dyneema or other technical fibre might be more rigid, but offer unrivalled protection from blunt trauma, caused by punches, kicks or blows by any offensive weapon, and I can certainly verify that an impact based assault is a much more likely incident than an attack involving an edged weapon, knife, bottle or other sharp toys and tools.
I have recently heard of so many manufacturers of Kevlar based stab vests making all sorts of misleading claims about blunt trauma protection. Let me make it very simple and clear here... the level of blunt trauma protection Kevlar based stab vests can offer is extremely low. These kind of body armour will not offer your ribs, spine or bones enough protection in case you get hit by a solid stick, iron bar, telescopic baton or blunt object e.g. chair or table legs.
Why choosing flexible stab vests that offer you nothing else but stab protection only? Why not issuing your frontline employees with stab vests which go way beyond basic knife or stab protection? Blunt trauma related incidents can cause horrendous, longs lasting and even permanent injuries.
Please also note that Kevlar, used for 'soft' or 'flexible' body armour has an official shelf live of 3-5 years. The life expectancy of Kevlar will be reduced by exposure to either UV light or moisture. Kevlar based protective body armour will fail to protect you at a much earlier stage in comparison to stab vests based on polycarbonate or other solid materials.
Kevlar manufactured body armour or stab vests must be replaced after a maximum of 5 years (a common procedure within Police, Border Control and Immigration). Please check your existing body armour, as a cleary visible date stamp on your body armour label will clearly indicate the date your product has been manufactured.
About the Author
Robert Kaiser is CEO of PPSS, a globally renowned consultancy for workplace violence and lone worker safety. Robert is also organiser of the annual LONE WORKER SAFETY Conference, taking place in London, United Kingdom. He is also frequently invited to speak about personal protective equipment and the moral and legal issues in reference to PPE in front of large audiences. Robert can be contacted vis his company PPSS.