Is Your High Visibility Clothing Putting Your Employees at RISK?
Here we explore how high visibility clothing can actually present risk, rather than protection if not looked after properly.
DID YOU KNOW?
Being hit my a moving vehicle is one of the most common cause of death in the workplace and accounts for 18% of all fatal injuries over the year 2020 / 20201 (source HSE).
HOW CAN YOU REDUCE THIS RISK?
As an employer, it is your responsibility to provide high visibility clothing needed for the job. This should be issued free of charge to any employees who may be exposed to significant risks to their safety.
HOW DOES HIGH VISIBILITY CLOTHING HELP?
The visibility aspect of the garments comes from the colour of the background material for daytime visibility (this must be fluorescent yellow, orange or red to conform to UK and EU standards for high visibility clothing) and Retro-reflective strips, that reflect light at night, or in darker conditions.
ARE THERE SAFETY STANDARDS WHICH HIGH VISIBILITY CLOTHING SHOULD MEET?
BS EN 20471 is in place to ensure that all high visibility teams of clothing provide the correct level of conspicuity. This standard categorises high visibility garments into 3 classes. Class 3 (highest level), Class 2 (intermediate visibility) and Class 1 (lowest level of visibility). To learn more about high visibility classification click here
So, as long as you buy from a reputable supplier, and the garments have all of the necessary CE markings and the level of protection is suitable for the risk involved, everything’s ok, yes?
HOW CAN SAFETY BE COMPROMISED?
As mentioned earlier, it is the combination of the fluorescent background and the Retro-reflective material that provides protection in order for the wearer to stand out against the ambient background. But what if this is compromised in some way? Any damage to these materials means that the area of visibility will be reduced and therefore can drastically reduce protection.
WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE OUTCOMES IF HIGH VISIBILITY CLOTHING IS NON-COMPLIANT?
If an employee was to sustain an injury, or death as a result of defective high visibility clothing, you as the employee are responsible to ensure that any high visibility clothing issued is in a clean state and in good working order.
Employers who are negligent in their duty to keep employees safe from harm at work, may be ruled liable.
It is the employees responsibility to wear the clothing issued and look after it. They should be briefed on issue as to why, where and when the clothing must be worn and they should report any damage or defects.
If an item of high visibility clothing is no longer capable of performing to its certified class it should be replaced.
5 KEY RISKS TO COMPLIANCE TO LOOK OUT FOR:
1/ Ensure that the high visibility clothing issued to your employees remains free from damage. Any rips or tears can compromise the surface area of the material, as well as potentially become a snag risk and could get trapped in moving parts.
2/ Ensure that the high visibility clothing remains clean. Any dirt or stains to the background or Retro-reflective material will reduce the level of protection. It is a good idea to issue sufficient quantities, in order that the wearers have ‘spares’ for when their clothing is being washed.
3/ Ensure that the maximum wash cycles is not exceeded. This is probably the most commonly seen example of high visibility clothing being unsuitable for use. While it’s important to keep the clothing clean, is is also important to not exceed the maximum wash cycles. This is indicated on the instruction leaflet that will be issued with each item of clothing. This is usually x 25 times, unless otherwise stated.
4/ Do not make alterations to the clothing. Shortening trouser legs, making long sleeves short will reduce the area of fluorescent material, thus reducing conspicuity. For the same reason trousers should not be tucked into socks or boots.
5/ Avoid issuing ‘coloured’ clothing. Only fluorescent yellow, orange and red background colours will conform to UK and EU standards. There are many other colours available in hi-vis vests, for example, but these are not classed as PPE and should only be used for identification purposes.
STAY SAFE | STAY SEEN | STAY COMPLIANT!
For the latest information on all PPE matters, check the HSE website.
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