The standards of high-visibility safety apparel
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The standards of high-visibility safety apparel

In many industries, workers are required to wear high-visibility clothing to alert others of their presence, especially when working in dark or dimly lit areas. A good example of workers requiring high-visibility workwear, is construction workers. They often work in highly-trafficked areas and can become seriously injured if they are hit by a vehicle. Consider how visible workers are when you are travelling at high speeds. If they are wearing dark blue conti suits with small bibs, how visible will they be against the backdrop of the dark tar road? It will be hard to spot them.

The materials in high-visibility garments may look alike, but they have key differences. For example, fluorescent material reflects invisible ultraviolet light from sunlight, when working in natural sunlight. There is also retroreflective material, which returns light in the direction of its source. The light will only be reflected if the reflective tape is in front of the light beam. Although this material can be used in daylight, it’s most effective if used in low-light conditions. According to Rob Wylie, one of our popular reflective clothing suppliers, high-visibility workwear can be classed in the High Visibility Performance Grade. There are three classes, ranging from low risk, to medium risk, to high risk. Class 1 is suitable for daytime use only, where vehicle speeds do not exceed 30km/h, for example when working in low risk environments like warehouses, park maintenance, cleaning crews. Class 2 is suitable for day and night use, where vehicle speeds do not exceed 60 km/h, for example when working in medium risk environments like municipal traffic control, airport staff, accident investigations, and construction sites. Class 3 is suitable for day and night use, where vehicle speeds exceed 60km/h, for example when working in high risk environments like highway patrols, road maintenance, and emergency services. Each class has a minimum requirement in terms of the minimum square meters of background hi-viz material and retro-reflective material that is required. Please see the diagram below.


International Standards Organisation:

According to Rob Wylie, the definition of the standard ISO 20471:2013 specifies requirements for high visibility clothing, which is capable of visually signalling the user’s presence. The high visibility clothing is intended to provide conspicuity of the wearer in any light condition when viewed by operators of vehicles or other mechanized equipment during daylight conditions and under illumination of headlights in the dark.

Please see a depiction of the classes below:

Employers should keep the following factors in mind when deciding which apparel to supply to their workers:

  • Stripes of colour that contrast with the background material provide good visibility, and stripes on the arms and legs can help provide cues to how the worker is moving.
  • It is essential that workers stay comfortable. The apparel should not have rough, sharp edges on any part that come into contact with the body.
  • The high visibility materials and reflective tape should never be covered by clothing or equipment.
  • High visibility apparel should always be kept clean and in good condition. The garment won’t provide acceptable levels of visibility if it is torn or heavily soiled.

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