WHAT IS HIGH VISIBILITY CLOTHING?
High Visibility Clothing, or ‘Hi-Vis’ as it’s known, distinguishes the wearer from the background so that they are clearly visible from all angles to prevent accidents in potentially dangerous places.
“A person wearing hi-vis is visible from up to 300 metres away, while a person without it is only visible from up to 50 metres at best.”
In order to be classified as hi-vis, garments must comply to the International Standard for High Visibility Clothing, EN ISO 20471, which covers the design and performance requirements of each element of a hi-visibility garment which comprises 3 key components:
1.The Fluorescent Material
This especially boosts visibility during daylight hours but also increases visibility at night. The standard approves three different colours of fluorescent orange, yellow and red.
2.The Reflective Strips
Designed for visibility during the darker hours, reflective strips require a light source to work and create retro-reflection. It is essential for those working at night.
There are different types of reflective strip, the most common being ‘glass beads reflective’. These need to be handled correctly to retain the functionality of the garment.
3.The Contrast Material
Although not a necessary component, this is darker coloured parts of the garment that are less sensitive to dirt than the fluorescent material and reflective strips, without which the functionality of some hi-vis garments would diminish. The areas covered with the contrast fabric tend to be where dirt is most likely to build up, for example, the sleeves, ankles, across the abdomen, and knees.
A DIFFERENT CLASS?
The amount of fluorescent material and reflective tape will determine which class the garment conforms to within the standard:
Class 1 (lowest level of visibility) – Garments that conform to Class 1 cover situations with the lowest risk. Class 1 items commonly include hi-vis trousers when worn separately from other hi-vis garments. Conforming only to Class 1 is not deemed suitable protection for those working on or near the roads.
Class 2 (intermediate level of visibility) – The most common garment that you will find in this category is the widely used hi-vis vest (although smaller sizes may only conform to class 1 due to surface area of fluorescent material) Other items may include hi-vis polo shirts, and t-shirts.
Class 3 (highest level of visibility) – To reach Class 3, the amount of fluorescent material and reflective tape increases by over 55%, therefore Class 3 garments will always have sleeves to allow for this, such as long sleeve vests, coats, sweatshirts, hoodies, fleeces etc.
HOW DO I ENSURE THAT MY GARMENTS COMPLY WITH EN 20471?
All compliant garments will carry a CE mark on the care label detailing what class the garment complies to. It will look something like this:
If your hi-vis doesn’t have this – THROW IT AWAY! Cheap alternatives will not be covered by any insurance company etc.
Whilst EN ISO 20471 details test methods and requirements before use, it doesn’t cover the requirements of remaining compliant after the garment has been worn. However, it’s important to check and maintain hi-vis workwear to ensure its performance isn’t compromised over time.
“Most hi-vis products only have a maximum life of 25 washes, unless stated otherwise on the label.”
This means that over-cleaning can lead you to lose compliance. Wearing over-washed hi-vis increases the likelihood of an accident, however, not washing regularly enough can also impact the performance as stains and dirt will decrease visibility.
Because of this, it’s best to have at least 2 hi-vis garments for each part of the body and rotate their use so that you can prolong their life and wash less often.
“You should aim to replace hi-vis garments approximately every 3 months.”
Soiled, damaged or dirty hi-vis are unlikely to meet the standards due to compromising the fluorescent material and / or the reflective tape
When a hi-vis product is no longer capable of performing to its certified class, it’s time to replace it.
WHERE DO I GET IT?
We have a vast range of compliant high visibility clothing to suit all budgets. Check them out here!