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News

A growing need for body armour

ASEO : 13 October, 2009  (Technical Article)
Robert Kaiser of ASEO explains why body armour is become more necessary as a safety precaution for emergency services and other personnel
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In an ever changing world, where anti social behaviour and lack of respect are the order of the day, appropriate solutions are required. A lack of inadequate safety measures can put an individual at unnecessary risk, and cause unacceptable injury or harm. Body armour and other specific personal protective equipment have therefore regrettably become a necessity within a number of domestic frontline professions.

The United Kingdom's Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) developed 18 case studies in 2003 and approached over 400 organisations of various sizes and across a range of different occupations. Detailed questionnaires were sent and interviews were conducted by the HSL with the selected organisations and the information which they provided formed the basis of these widely respected case studies. The outcome is of great relevance to the question: 'Body Armour - Why?'

The main risks areas highlighted by the HSL are as follows:

* Visiting people in their home or office to enforce laws and regulations, police the system or having to give bad news.

* Certain geographical areas or trouble spots are high risk, such as poor or run down council estates.

* Dealing with certain high risk individuals, such as potentially violent or aggressive members of the public, drug users or dealers, or mentally ill individuals.

* Dealing with frustrated and disappointed customers (e.g. customers unhappy with the service your organisation has provided)

* Working late at night.

* Evicting people from their home.

* Visiting clients in unfamiliar industrial and domestic premises.

* Visiting unoccupied buildings.


Any of these above highlighted points should in itself be reason enough to at least consider the issue of covert body armour to domestic frontline services and departments. But many more reasons can be highlighted, making a decision not to issue potentially life saving PPE even more controversial. Corporate manslaughter and corporate homicide laws as well as health & safety regulations have been rewritten in countries around the world, in order to protect those who serve and risk their lives for others. The cost of facing potential legal action after a fatal or non-fatal incident and the cost of injured employees taking time off would outweigh the one-off cost of body armour. Assaults on personnel who are not wearing protective clothing also create bad publicity for the Authority concerned, not to mention the welfare of the person involved and operational problems resulting from the injured staff being unable to work.

However, the most popular argument against body armour I have personally come across is the concern about how it might be seen by the public when frontline employees start walking around in body armour. Well, 'perception' is one of the most important issues within personal safety, and I very much agree with the fact that overt body armour can often be perceived as very confrontational, especially when dealing with intoxicated members of the public or those who seriously dislike authority, your organisation or presence to begin with. For me, frontline employees dealing with the public should be doing their utmost to express themselves as peaceful ambassadors within their line of work. 'Covert' body armour allows them to do exactly that, whilst still being protected.

Regardless of the outcome of any common risk assessment, the fact of the matter is that there is always an 'unknown' level of risk due to unforeseen circumstances. Ordinary risk assessments might often conclude in the verdict of 'low risk', however these often poorly executed risk assessments are based on technical facts or 'on-hand information' only, and as much as I appreciate them, they often do not go beyond these facts. A risk assessment dealing with the activity of a lone worker having to enter someone else's property or deal with customers or clients on a one-to-one basis can in my opinion, never ever result in low risk. The moment a lone worker walks through someone's door or deals with often unfamiliar members of the public at another location, one can simply not know who else will be in the house, who else might enter the house at a later point, what activities have taken place prior to your colleagues visit or who else might be going to interfere or engage in their conversation or argument at a later point.

But what would you do if you were driving a car and your petrol light comes on, indicating you only have a small amount of petrol left. Would you start thinking: Will I make it home or not? Some people would be willing to take the risk in this situation. In the workplace though, in my view, it is the duty of the employer to not allow their employees to take unknown risks of their own accord without the provision of equipment and training to protect them should they make a mistake in their own judgement. 'Better safe than sorry' and 'Prevention is better than cure' are two great sayings, making more sense within corporate health & safety than anywhere else. I hope you would stop and get some fuel, because you want to be on the safe side. You might have made it, but you didn't want to take that risk. The bottom line is you cannot afford to break down. The fact that a lone workers activity involves a rather 'unknown risk' must urge key decision makers to remain at least open minded when it comes to personal protective equipment or additional training that can be made available.

Recommending body armour does not mean we suggest you are in danger, we simply say that you will have a higher chance of remaining unharmed in the unlikely, but possible, case of something going wrong. Wearing personal protective equipment can be compared to wearing a seat belt when driving a car. We do not put the seat belt on because we believe we are going to have an accident today. We are simply acknowledging the fact that there is an exceptionally small chance that we might crash. Yet, if this chance becomes reality, you have increased the chance of survival by wearing a seat belt.

ASEO are globally respected and renowned experts in specialised personal protective equipment and body armour for domestic frontline services, such as paramedics, hospital security, brand protection, investigation teams, local authorities enforcement teams, university security and many others. Should you ever have any questions in reference to body armour, then please do not hesitate to contact the team at ASEO and they will help you in the strictest of confidence.
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