Security workers are spending up to $1300 on stab-proof vests to protect themselves against violent attacks in increasingly high-risk jobs, according to suppliers of the hi-tech garments.
A rising number of security guards, door staff, animal control officers and noise patrol officers are regularly wearing the vests to reduce the risk of sustaining life threatening injuries on the job.
Some were even dipping into their own pockets to purchase the vests, according to suppliers and union representatives.
New Plymouth company CERT Systems supplies a range of stab-resistant and ballistic vests.
Director Brad Dannefaerd said demand for stab-resistant vests was up 15 to 20 per cent in the last year, mostly from security staff.
"There is no question . . . they are working in a higher-risk environment today than they did say five or 10 years ago. They're realising the potential risk is pretty significant . . ."
The vests offered "phenomenal blunt force trauma protection", he said.
CERT System's stab resistant vests were made in Britain and priced between $895 and $1295.
"It is a lot of money but what price do you put on safety?" Dannefaerd said.
New Zealand body armour company Armasure started selling stab-proof vests about six months ago following an influx of inquiries.
"The problem is with a lot of the companies the guys have to buy them themselves," sales manager Warwick Edwards said.
The other big problem was finding vests to suit New Zealand men who required extremely large sizes, he said.
The Service and Food Workers Union senior organiser Len Richards said trying to get more staff equipped with stab-proof vests had been an ongoing issue.
The union's collective agreement included a health and safety clause allowing staff access to suitable clothing.