As attacks on security guards increase in a number of industries, we’ve seen more security firms consider implementing body armor requirements – or adding additional protection for their guards. Body armor is one of the most effective ways to prevent security guards from being harmed by most attacks. If you’re interested in providing body armor options for your guards, here are several important points to consider!

Focus on Protection Against Knives and Blows

When thinking about body armor, many people immediately think of armor that protects against bullets. There are actually many kinds of body armor (we’ll talk a bit more about this below), and security guard protection should be tailored to the dangers they face. Usually, “ballistic” armor designed to protect from bullets isn’t necessary for most security positions and can be too bulky to allow for easy movement.

Instead, security guards are much more likely to be attacked with blades or blunt instruments. That’s why most security firms should start looking at what are commonly called “stab vests.” These are basic vests that protect important parts of the body with layered Kevlar that’s thinner than ballistic armor, but still provides plenty of protection against knife attacks and similar situations.

These stab vests are often thin enough to wear under uniforms or other clothes. That’s not only more comfortable for your guards – it also makes it easier to display your firm’s logo and helps assure clients that may not want guards to wear intimidating armor.

Consider What Attacks Your Guards Face

If you aren’t sure about what protection to consider, think about the sort of attacks your guards have faced in the past. Often, body armor can be tailored to specific dangers. There are the stab vests that we mentioned above, which are helpful in basic knife attacks and similar situations. Again, gun wounds aren’t usually common in the security guard industry, but if your guards have been threatened with a firearm in the past, especially at specific venues, you should certainly consider ballistic armor. There’s also “spike” armor that’s designed to protect against stabbing, such as from needles or sharpened instruments. There are even body armor pieces that are designed for animal attacks, if your guards have faced any of those in the past.

As we mentioned above, you’ll also have to make decisions about how covert you want body armor to be. Unless you’re dealing with full ballistic armor (which can be hidden but is often obvious), you will find several choices for armor designed to be hidden or obvious. There are situations where obvious body armor can be a helpful deterrent against problems. There are also jobs – especially those with more of a customer service angle – where covert armor may be friendlier and more appropriate.

Always Consider the Right Sizes

Body armor must always be sized for guards – and often purchased for a specific body type. That can quickly become more complicated than just male vs. female sizes: Body armor is also sized based on overall chest size, sternum length, and height. Poorly sized armor can be very uncomfortable to wear or offer less protection. On the other hand, it may be difficult to buy individual body armor for every guard. Security companies may want to find a middle ground between offering body armor in the right sizes, and customizing armor for each individual guard, depending on the budget and timeframe.

Be Careful of Rainy Jobs

Do your guards spend a lot of time in the rain? Be careful when picking and using body armor. Most types of body armor are not designed to get thoroughly wet. They can withstand light rainfall, but consistent rain could cause problems. Water can ruin protective fibers, including Kevlar, so that body armor loses its value, or cause mildew problems that can increase with time. For rainy conditions, choose equipment that’s rated for the rain or have guards wear armor under their clothing, so it stays safe.

Create Cleaning Schedules

Even body armor that isn’t used very often can get dirty from sweat and stains, so it’s important to create a cleaning schedule for any armor your team uses. That may sound difficult if armor can’t get wet, but armor can usually be cleaned safely. A wet cloth with a little bit of detergent can clean most types of body armor. However, stay away from harsher chemicals like bleach, which can damage body armor.

What About Costs?

While costs can vary, expect to pay around $100 to $200 for a protective vest. The more protection body armor offers, the higher the cost – up to several hundred dollars or beyond. Arm, hand, or leg protection generally starts around $50.

Final Notes

If you are introducing new body armor options for your team, it’s a good idea to create firm guidelines about when it should be used, which may vary based on client needs. Body armor also requires some maintenance: Creating a maintenance schedule for protective equipment will help your firm make sure that it’s always ready to be used and hasn’t been compromised from previous activities. Professional body armor typically comes with instructions on how to care for it (washing it, for example, is usually a bad idea), so when in doubt, consult those manuals.