New standards in motorcycle clothing are underway for emergency service motorcyclists

A new standard is being planned for Emergency Service motorcycle riders across the Police, Ambulance and Fire Service and is underway in association with the British Standards Institution (BSI).

Chief Constable Nick Adderley (BikeSafe Strategic Lead) along with Superintendent Kevin Mulligan (BikeSafe National Lead), are engaged in negotiations with the expert committee BSI PH3/9 that has existed for many years at the Institute and meets regularly to stay on top of all European EN standards connected to motorcycle clothing and accessories such as gloves, boots, impact protectors and wearable airbags.

Brian Sansom, founder of BKS (Made to Measure) Ltd in Devon sits on this BSI committee and has pledged to help all he can to assist with this new standard. BKS is a longstanding supplier to police forces across the United Kingdom and has been providing made to measure suits to every force in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, and a large majority of the forces in England on and off, since 1986.

There is a great wealth of knowledge and experience that can be brought together from all parties to ensure this standard is both supported by end users and delivered by manufacturers. Currently the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) have advised that it could take 15 – 18 months to develop but Mr Sansom has made some interesting points in relation to these timescales.

He says that his company along with two other UK manufacturers, Hideout Leather and Scott Leathers already provide clothing to police forces (and the public sector) that meets the very standards that emergency services have in mind.

Sansom is keen for everyone to know that in 2016, the changes brought about by the PPE Regulation resulted in a much lower set of standards in the form of EN 17092 but as the previous advice coming from NPCC already acknowledges, it is mainly aimed at leisure motorcycling and the enthusiast, not the professional motorcyclist such as Roads Policing. BKS and other industry colleagues within the UK have been challenging this since day one as a new incoming benchmark because the previous standards of EN 13595 and Cambridge both offered significantly better protection to wearers.

He is also keen to remind us that BKS has devoted over 35 years developing and delivering what the motorcycle industry repeatedly acknowledges as the safest and most securely constructed motorcycle clothing available. BKS were the first company to ever receive CE Approval for the complete suit back in 1994 to Cambridge Standard High Performance, well ahead of 2002 when it was almost entirely re-written word for word into EN 13595. Any UK force currently wearing a suit from BKS, Hideout or Scott have this level of CE Approval.

BKS and Hideout can provide the typical leather police suit as a full leather jacket and trouser combination made from cowhide (or lightweight kangaroo) with all three companies able to offer a textile alternative. The ‘new’ BKS textile suit has been in development for the last two years and is fully waterproof with taped seams and a wealth of air vents.

BKS’s leather suit remains in use across 20 or so forces and is fully vented with removable linings made from ‘OUTLAST’ fabrics that helps regulate body temperatures: cool in summer, warmer in winter. Leather accordion panels and stretch fabric sections cope with use on and off the bike and since 2018, fitted with state of the art Alpinestars system – TechAir.

BKS believes the future is for both leather and textile to ensure both preferences are satisfied. The BKS textile police suit has shown capabilities well beyond EN 13595 Level 2, is lightweight, flexible and will be available bespoke and off the peg. It can be worn with an airbag system in or out, and interchangeable with the leather suit they already provide. Jackets and trousers from each suit type fully zip together and will dovetail should a force prefer a textile jacket and a leather trouser combination, especially if the force already has their leathers and only wants to bring in a new upper half.

BKS will continue conversations with BikeSafe and with the NPCC, to update on BSI developments as well as any new garments designed to be compatible with Emergency Service riders and their preferences.

Sansom believes all motorcycle riders (professional or leisure) deserve the right to wear safety equipment in line with the risk they take and so, for example, track day enthusiasts who regularly crash at speeds from 30mph up to 150mph will be failed by EN 17092 which falls miserably short of their requirements as would be the requirements of the professional rider groups in the Emergency Services.

Police motorcyclists wear motorcycle clothing of the highest standards

Sansom is the only police suit manufacturer currently on the committee and assures BikeSafe and the NPCC that he will play his part in helping improve the current situation of where EN 17092 does not go far enough and advocating the awareness of EN 13595 which is still a test standard that notified bodies can offer to other EU manufacturers to comply with should they wish. BKS has offered to work alongside BikeSafe to continue understanding the range in preferences for police motorcycle kit and welcomes all forces to put their ideas forward. BKS would also be very happy to create development garments for wearer trials should forces be interested.

The BSI committee PH3/9 are quite clear what the levels of performance need to be. EN 13595 proves more than adequate already but there is a set of body zoning dimensions in EN 17092 that slightly improves on the former standard in this regard only and could provide enhanced comfort in the areas at lower risk of impact and abrasion.

A blend of these existing standards is likely to be the outcome, and this has already been achieved by BKS, Hideout and Scott in their current kit. Sansom stated that “for the last 29 years most of the industry has resisted compliance and only following the introduction of the PPE Regulation and its legal requirements for motorcycle clothing to be included, have we seen EN 17092 come forward. It might take 18 months for new standards but could easily take other companies another 12 months to design, manufacture and gain certification before other garments finally become available. Much of the industry is only interested in EN 17092 because that’s where public sector sales are, which maintains their legitimate positions sufficiently.”

This timescale has prompted Sansom to press home the fact that police forces need not wait up to three years, only to find the current three UK based suppliers might still remain the only three offering kit of EN 13595 Level two performance. The desired outcome must be that all UK police motorcycle riders end up wearing appropriate and fit for purpose kit as soon as possible. It is here already.

Forces who are not using suitably safe PPE are undoubtedly the ones to benefit first from NPCC advice. Substandard and non-compliant kit is already coming to their attention through the good work of this. Much of those force’s purchasing decisions have come from the desire for lighter weight clothing, more waterproof and most likely a textile alternative to leather, yet unknowingly led to believe such kit was fit for purpose. Sansom says his expert knowledge of material science including its construction and physical behaviour “requires something quite special for an all-textile suit to rival that of a leather one and reach the requirements for professional use.”

Clearly there is a demand for a lightweight suit, there is no denying today’s configuration of leather suit, airvest then waterproof Hi-Viz outer shell… is a considerable set of layers for a 12-hour shift and for days on end. Whilst some UK forces are unclear in their policy, plenty of support still exists for all leather option. However, there are others who prefer a waterproof textile that offers the ability for a mesh version of the Hi-Viz over jacket to make all day comfort more tolerable. This is fine so long as the main suit does offer that level of protection sought in the new Emergency Services standard and not the lower levels of some kit based around EN 17092 only.

Police motorcyclist protective clothing