In very simple terms, the reason for investing in hi-vis (high visibility) clothing for your workers is quite straightforward - it can stop them from being injured. It will also possibly save you from all kinds of reputational damage or compensation claims if one of your workers gets hurt in an incident which could have been avoided had you provided your workers with appropriate safety clothing. Here are the answers to some key questions about the use of hi-vis clothing.
How does hi-vis clothing actually work?
Hi-vis clothing is made of a bright, fluorescent fabric, with bands of reflective material in strategic locations. Some hi-vis clothing actually has LED lights as well, for extra visibility. Where there is plenty of ambient light, usually in the daytime, it is the sheer brightness of the fluorescent material which makes the wearer visible. As the ambient light decreases, the reflective bands pick up on any available light source, such as car headlights so that the wearer can still be seen in the darkness. In environments where there is potentially no light at all, hi-vis clothing needs to have incorporated LEDs (with an appropriate power source) to remain effective.
Is there meaning to the various colours?
In the UK, the choice of colour is purely a matter of employee/worker preference, although for the sake of consistency employers may prefer to stick with one colour at least per employee function. Yellow and orange tend to be the most-used colours, but these days there are plenty of other options. Basically, if the clothing meets the British Standard BS EN 471 then it’s absolutely fine to use it in the workplace.
How is hi-vis clothing sized?
This depends on the supplier; however, a reputable supplier will provide information as to what they size designations actually mean in real terms. In basic terms, however, you should find it straightforward to find hi-vis clothing to fit all but the very shortest and tallest of adults. If you do employ someone who is particularly small or tall, you should still be able to find clothing to fit them, you may just have to do a special order. Much hi-vis clothing has some degree of adjustability such as by means of straps or elastic for an even better, individual fit.
What special considerations are involved in the purchase of hi-vis clothing?
Part of being safe is being comfortable at work, so, in addition to making sure that employees have appropriately-sized clothing, the clothing also has to be appropriate for the temperature in which they work. For example, two sets of employees working in the same job in the same location may require different sets of hi-vis clothing for day shift and night shift and/or summer and winter. When temperatures are warm, a hi-vis vest may provide the best balance between visibility and keeping cool. As temperatures drop, however, be it during the night or just as the weather gets colder, then trousers may be added and then finally jackets. It’s also worth noting that jackets themselves come in various thicknesses and degrees of warmth to suit different situations.
Peter Scully is a marketing consultant for health and safety clothing retailer Image To Suit You.