Body Armor

It's a lifesaver - although less so when the armor is well worn

Body Armor When you think of body armor, the image of police officers wearing bullet-proof vests may come to mind first - and for good reason. What a high-profile example of when the right personal protective equipment makes all the difference in workplace safety!

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently reported that a local police officer survived a point-blank gunshot, thanks to his body armor.

Perhaps surprisingly, a recent report from Florida news station WESH 2 revealed that many Florida law enforcement agencies allow their officers the choice of whether or not to wear their standard-issue body armor on a regular basis. If they choose not to, they simply sign a waiver!

The issue seems to be a matter of comfort in a very warm climate - but providing protection from bullets should be required for law enforcement officers everywhere, just as safety equipment is mandated in so many other types of work.

In 2003, the U.S. Department of Justice announced its Body Armor Safety Initiative [PDF] after a policeman's Zeilon-based body armor was fatally pieced by a bullet.

The investigation, conducted for the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), found that ballistic-resistant materials, including Zeilon, can degrade due to environmental factors such as exposure to moisture and light: "...the results clearly show that used Zeilon-containing body armor may not provide the intended level of ballistic resistance."

However, the NIJ still recommended that law enforcement officers wear their Zeilon body armor vests -at the very least until they are replaced with new body armor.

Body armor should be properly fitted to the worker's body, offering maximum coverage with minimal obstruction of movement - in other words, not too tight and not too loose.

Tips on caring for body armor

  • Ensure that the front and back ballistic panels face in the proper directions.
  • To clean, you should wipe panels with a damp cloth using cool water and mild detergent.
  • Store body armor flat, in a cool, dry place.
  • Do not dry it in direct sunlight or store in a car trunk.
  • Replace your body armor if signs of wear are detected.

The message is clear: even if the body armor should ideally be replaced with more modern gear, workers should keep wearing what they've got. Even with reduced ballistic resistance, body armor still offers significant protection.

And you never know when you might need this vital piece of PPE.

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