Buyer's Guide to High Visibility Clothing - choosing the correct hi viz garments
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What is High Visibility Clothing?
Hi Viz clothing is clothing worn that is either highly reflective or easily discernible from any background. Obvious uses are on and around roads, on building sites, in security situations and, of course, within the emergency services. Hi Viz garments are made in fluorescent colours like Saturn Yellow and Hi Viz Orange to make you stand out during the day and retroreflective material to make you more visible in low light conditions. A retroreflector is an object that takes light from all different angles and reflects it back in one line of sight. The easiest example of this is a cat's eye.
In high visibility clothing the leading retroreflective material is a product by 3M called Scotchlite. You can think of it as a sheet of miniscule cat's eyes.
Given that being struck by a moving vehicle is the second most common cause of death in the workplace it makes sense that you and/or your employees are protected up to the necessary standard.
High Visibility and the Law
Clothing must comply with the EN471 High Visibility Specifications.
The specifications are set in three classes
Class 3 : Highest Protection Level
Bands of retroreflective material shall not be less than 50mm wide. Minimum background material 0.8m sq.. Mimimum retroreflective material 0.2m sq. In practice, to attain sufficient areas Class 3 garments tend to have long sleeves with a reflective band around the sleeve.
Class 2: Intermediate Protection Level
Bands of retroreflective material shall not be less than 50mm wide. Minimum background material 0.5m sq.. Minimum retroreflective material 0.13m sq.
Class 1: Lowest Protection Level
Where enhanced visibility is an advantage but for minimal risk/off road purposes only. Bands of retroreflective material shall not be less than 50mm wide. Minimum background material 0.14m sq. Minimum retroreflective material 0.10m sq.
So, which class should you go for?
The first thing you should be sure of is that your chosen garments have passed the standard. Each garment should come with a paper certificate in the bag proving that it has been tested to, and passed, the relevant standard. You should be extremely wary of any supplier who is unwilling or unable to produce certicates for their hi viz clothing. All of our garments include the certificate in the bag. If you are working on or near high speed roads or other high risk environments you must choose Class 3 long sleeve garments. If working on or near standard roads or medium risk environments then you'd need Class 2 at least. For other jobs where a level of visibility is useful but not vital, then Class 1 will suffice. In practice, because of economies of scale the price of hi viz Class 2 are often as low or lower than Class 1 so we find most customers go for the safer option.
Care and maintenance tips
Dirt affects a hi viz garments visibility; make sure the garments are washed regularly and replaced if too worn.
Don't allow sections to be cut off garments. The level of protection depends on the areas of fluorescent and reflective material and if you alter it then it will no longer meet the standard.
Make sure the garment is worn fastened whenever possible. This maximises the effectiveness of the garment but also minimises the risk of the garment getting tangled in moving machinery etc
Choosing the right style of hi vis clothing
The High Vis Clothing market has expanded rapidly and there are a great number of products available. You can see our full range here
Probably the most recognisable hi viz product is the Hi Viz Vest which conforms to Class 2 of EN471. To conform to Class 3 in the same product requires the sleeved version called a Hi Viz Jerkin
During the summer months wearing a hi viz vest over a t shirt can be hot work. The temptation can be to take off the vest and therefore not be protected. A way to kill two birds with one stone is the hi viz t shirt and also the hi viz polo shirt which is available in both short and long sleeves. Similarly, there are now hi viz work trousers available with all the hard wearing and practical features of a normal pair of work trousers but in high visibility.
During colder months again there is temptation not to wear a vest because it might not fit over your warm clothes and jacket so there are the Hi Viz Fleece, Hi Viz Sweatshirt and Hi Viz Bodywarmer.
In terms of hi vis waterproofs there is quite a lot of choice, depending on your budget and requirements.
Probably the cheapest option is the standard Hi-Visibility Overtrousers coupled with either the Constructor Hi Viz Bomber Jacket or Constructor Traffic Jacket. A bomber style jacket is less likely to get snagged on things whilst of course the longer jacket provides warmth lower down. Bomber styles are also popular with drivers as they are more comfortable than having to sit on the lower part of a longer jacket.
Working hard outdoors in the rain can be a double edged sword if the waterproofs aren't breathable. Hard work raises the body temperature, that heat needs to escape but can't because of the waterproofs and this then leads you to sweat. After a hard day's work you can be as wet through with sweat as you would have been had you not been wearing waterproofs. And this is where breathable garments come in. They allow the water vapour from the body to escape whilst keeping the water from the rain out. Good examples in our range are the Jubilee Breathable Hi Viz Jacket, Super B-Dri Breathable Hi Viz Trousers and Oakwood Breathable Hi Viz Jacket.
Another good idea are jackets that carry out several different functions. The Fourseasons Jacket can be worn as a cold weather jacket in winter, in warmer weather you can remove the zip out bodywarmer and just wear the outer or just wear the bodywarmer. The Elsner 7 in 1 jacket is even more versatile.
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