High visibility clothing is an essential part of workwear in a number of industries, particularly where safety is a major concern such as manufacturing and warehouse work. It’s not just businesses that use hi-vis clothing however, cyclists, hikers and young children often wear hi-vis as well but it’s important to make a distinction between the clothing used by these groups as the hi-vis clothing manufactured for private use generally isn’t up to standard for an industrial use. To help clear up any confusion here’s everything you could need to know about hi-vis clothing and the different standards required.
How it Works
The two elements that give hi-visibility clothing its essential qualities are the fluorescent fabric used to create the main body of the clothing and the reflective strips that cross the body of the clothing, each of which has a very important but separate function. The fluorescent fabric reacts with ultra-violet light to produce the glowing effect that it’s known for and its primary purpose is to increase visibility during the daytime though it has a reduced effect in dim light.
The reflective strips do exactly what the name suggests; they bounce back lights from vehicles and stationary lamps and come in two main varieties. Some reflective strips are created using glass bead technology which scatters the light rather than reflecting directly back to the source, this is obviously better suited in environments where lights are likely to be stationary i.e. an overhead light would shine down on the person wearing the hi-vis, the glass bead strips would scatter the light allowing the wearer to be seen from any direction. The other strips are known as retroreflective strips which reflect light directly back to its source which is obviously very useful in environments with a large number of vehicles; these strips would reflect headlights back to the vehicle, alerting the driver to the presence of the wearer.
Standards of Hi-Vis
There are two Europe-wide standards for the testing and certification of high visibility garments, EN1150 covers garments manufactured purely for personal use, EN1470 covers the use of hi-vis garments in trades and professions and sets a much more rigorous standard of quality than that of EN1150, it is also mandatory for all garments used in an occupational setting. There are three classes of hi-vis garment covered under EN1470 which are as follows:
THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF CONSPICUITY
Minimum background material 0.80m2
Minimum retro-reflective material 0.20m2
Minimum background material 0.50m2
Minimum retro-reflective material 0.13m2
LOW LEVEL PROTECTION
Minimum background material 0.14m2
Minimum retro-reflective material 0.10m2