Anatomical Body Armour Considerations: How to Evaluate the Safety Performance of Fitted PPE

body armour testing

Properly fitting and performance-tested body armour is essential to ensure personal protection during highly volatile conditions. With police, military and security professionals facing increasingly violent scenarios in daily operations, it has become crucial to understand anatomical requirements, specifically when considering the fundamental differences involved in protecting female and male body frames. Anatomically specific designed body armour has become a point of focus for preventing ballistic and stab wounds in a wide range of applications. 

Below, we’ll take a closer look at some of the unique considerations involved in designing body armour that meets the specific safety needs of female body frames. Read on to learn more. 

Embracing Diversity for Effective Protection

One of the core principles of safety testing is that armour should be able to perform in a manner that meets the needs of a diverse range of individuals, regardless of their age or gender. Human operatives come, as the saying goes, in all shapes and sizes. To offer sufficient protection, ballistic and stab vests must be adaptable to various forms to ensure proper coverage and protection without inhibiting comfort and operational effectiveness. This means factoring different body shapes and sizes and accounting for the distinct anatomical differences between genders. While certain portions of PPE gear are able to perform at a standardized level with minimal variance from user to user, core defence items like stab vests and bullet resistant vests must adapt to specific body types in order to keep the user safe.

Mobility and Range of Motion Testing

While base-level safety testing will often evaluate a range of body armours’ ability to absorb and deflect force and penetrative objects in a stationary or controlled environment, additional testing is required to comprehensively understand how they will perform while being used operationally. Range of motion, comfort, securement and adjustability are key variables to be analyzed, and in-situ testing is crucial for safety in real-world scenarios wherein the threat environment rarely adheres to controlled conditions.

Prioritizing Critical Areas of the Gender Specific Anatomy

For law enforcement and military operatives, critical regions (e.g., lungs, heart, spine, etc) must be adequately protected from harm. While standard, unisex armour may offer a certain level of safety, for female users it is essential to ensure that specialized chest protection is incorporated both for comfort (i.e. avoiding excessive compression or sliding due to a poor fit), as well as performance with proper construction and layout methods. When testing the safety of ballistic or stab vests with female combatants or operatives in mind, evaluators must analyze whether armour is able to absorb and distribute impact effectively without introducing weaknesses, movement restrictions or fatigue (more on that next).

Weight Distribution and Endurance Testing

Body armour, regardless of the user, must be able to be worn for extended periods of time without causing excessive fatigue or compromising a user’s ability to perform in a dynamic environment. From an anatomical perspective, this means factoring scientific data that highlights the difference in weight distribution and areas of strength between male and female wearers. Females, for example, typically have lower upper body strength compared to males, and tend to carry more weight on the front of their bodies due to anatomical differences. When designing and testing new armour, it is crucial to determine the durability of the unit as well as its viability for long-term use in demanding scenarios. 

A Collaborative Approach to Excellence

In addition to standardized testing, when considering the demands of anatomically specific features, it’s crucial to incorporate feedback directly from users. Whether tailoring your product towards all genders, it is vital to understand exactly what is needed and to adapt designs to address key concerns with regard to comfort and first-hand performance in the field. By embracing anatomical differences, prioritizing mobility and comfort, and incorporating feedback from field-active professionals, designers can create body armour that not only meets safety requirements but also addresses the unique requirements of their users.

Proven Safety Standards for All User 

At Biokinetics, we believe that knowledge is power when it comes to preventing fatalities and dangerous injuries caused in the field. For nearly 50 years, we’ve proudly partnered with clients across Canada and North America to offer extensive testing and assessment services for blunt force applications as well as ballistics testing, sports research, and more.

Contact Biokinetics today to learn more!