Accreditation program for labs which test body armor

Published 7 January 2008

In the last three decades, the lives of more than 3,000 officers were saved by body armor; many, though, lost their lives or were injured when they were wearing ineffective body armor; NIST, Justice create program for accrediting labs which test and certify body armor

Important development on the personal protection equipment (PPE) front: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in cooperation with the National Institute of Justice(NIJ), has established a new accreditation program for laboratories which test personal body armor. The deadline for inclusion in the first group of candidates for accreditation was 15 December 2007. Personal body armor can mean the difference between life and death for law enforcement officers and soldiers. The NIJ reports that more than 3,000 officers’ lives have been saved by personal body armor since standards were first introduced for ballistic resistance in 1972. To be of any help, body armor which law enforcement agencies use must meet meaningful minimum performance requirements — and demonstrating that requires thorough testing at reliable testing facilities.

As part of the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program(NVLAP), the new NIST program will ensure that an accredited laboratory performing tests on personal body armor is capable of obtaining reliable data and competently conducts testing in the manner described in the draft standard NIJ-0101.06: Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor. NIST made technical recommendations to the draft standard at the request of the NIJ, which is the research, development, and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. The minimum performance requirements defined by the standards are reevaluated and updated periodically as new safety issues arise and new discoveries are made. The new draft standard is the latest recommendation following the release of interim requirements in 2005 — and that release was made necessary after it was discovered that some models of body armor which complied with the previous standard were far less effective once used in the field. The new standards take these concerns and others into account, and the accreditation program NIST is implementing has been designed to make sure that those standards are being met when the next generation of armors is tested.

Laboratories wishing to be accredited must submit an application and pay required fees. Applications will be considered in the order they are received. Successful applications are contingent on the completion of the application process, which includes an assay of the operation by technical experts and demonstrated proficiency of personnel. Laboratories may obtain NIST Handbook 150, NVLAP Procedures and General Requirements, NIST Handbook 150-24, Personal Body Armor, and an application for accreditation for this program by calling 301.975.4016 or visiting the NVLAP Web site.