Several years ago, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) assembled a collaborative team to address the issue of body armor safety and the needs of criminal justice agencies. As a result of this collaboration, the NIJ decided to increase the amount of testing needed for body armor to meet their standards. This includes more extensive and frequent testing as well as environmental testing. In addition, they have developed BA 9000, a body armor quality management standard.
BA 9000, released in January 2012, is an extension of ISO 9001, a popular quality management standard. Manufacturers who wish to become BA 9000 certified must comply with additional requirements beyond ISO 9001 that are specific to ballistics-resistant body armor manufacturing and testing. While this standard is voluntary, it is recommended by the NIJ. The following are some key points:
- Manufacturers must provide procedures for communicating with the Compliance Testing Program (CTP).
- Manufacturers must provide unique identification for each piece of the body armor to ensure accountability.
- Work areas must be managed in order to reduce negative effects on body armor.
- Product testing must be done at CTP approved labs, which need to be ISO 17025 compliant.
BA 9000 extends to manufacturers of body armor vests for federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and corrections bodies.
While certification to BA 9000 is not mandated or regulatory, there are some clear benefits. These include:
- Reduced Testing – For manufacturers who are BA 9000 certified, testing frequency can be reduced by half.
- Competitive Advantage – Certification to a standard such as BA 9000 is an indicator of dedication to quality. This can prove an advantage in an industry where quality could be the difference between life and death.