We need to talk about Hi-Vis clothing: It’s not to be missed

By Emily France, Creative Content Curator | Safety Supplier @rapidfiresupplies | People Person | Theatre Type & Arts Supporter.

We need to talk about Hi-Vis clothing square rapid fire supplies blog

We need to talk about Hi-Vis clothing: It’s not to be missed.

Key Takeaways:

· High visibility clothing policy UK.
· High visibility safety standards.
· High visibility vs reflective – what’s the difference?
· How to choose the right high visibility clothing for you.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Of course, we all know the importance of High Visibility clothing. It is essential for alerting others of your presence to avoid being injured by other people, vehicles or machinery. A staple item in hundreds of work environments, Hi-Vis workwear can be (very easily) spotted in factories, on building sites and along areas of road matience.

However, is selecting the right high visibility clothing for you as simple as it seems? Many factors must be taken into consideration from fit, weather resistance and deciding if reflective strips will be a useful addition or just distracting.

Read on to learn more, if you don’t find it useful, I’ll eat my – bright yellow – hat!

High visibility clothing policy UK

First up, it’s good to know what you as the employee or employer are expected, by law, to provide. As high visibility workwear is a form of PPE, in order to maintain safety standards, it is the employer who must provide any Hi-Vis clothing that is required for the job, free of charge.

In addition to this the employer must:

  • Maintain Hi-Vis clothing – ensuring that it’s clean and in good working condition.
  • Store the Hi-Vis workwear.
  • Give all employees Hi-Vis information and training. Explaining why they need the clothing as well as how and when to use it correctly.
  • Supervise the use of Hi-Vis clothing in the workplace.

As an employee you must adhere to all the rules in place about Hi-Vis clothing in your workplace and alert your employer should you notice any damage to your PPE. If your clothing is not in prime condition, it will not be able to offer you adequate protection and may even cause additional hazards. The above terms are in accordance with The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992.

High vis safety standards

If you are an employer researching the correct PPE to protect your staff or an employee making sure that you have been provided the right Hi-Vis clothing, the best way to do so is to check the standards on you garment.

The first thing to look out for is this image that lets you know that it conforms to the BS EN 471 standard – the British Standard for high visibility clothing.

Simple drawn logo of black and with hi-vis vest with X & Y to the right hand side

The (X) indicates the conspicuity class of the garment. This lets you know how visible the Hi-Vis will be. It will display a number from 1 to 3 Class 3 being the best and offering the highest level of visibility.

The (Y) indicates the level of retroflection and can be either 1 or 2 with Class 2 being the most reflective.

The (X) indicates the conspicuity class of the garment. This lets you know how visible the hi-vis will be. It will display a number from 1 to 3, Class 3 being the best and offering the highest level of visibility.

The (Y) indicates the level of retroflection and can be either 1 or 2, with Class 2 being the most reflective.

These rules apply for all types of high visibility clothing, from trousers and jackets to harnesses.

Also don’t forget to make sure that your Hi-Vis has the CE mark. This shows that it meets the European / UK rules on PPE standards.

CE logo in black

High visibility vs reflective – what’s the difference?

In short, hi-vis can be identified by the use of bright block colors all over the garment such as yellow, green and orange. When choosing effective hi-vis, pick a color that stands out from the surrounding environment. If you are working on a building site in the middle of the city, green hi-vis clothing would make you stand out from the grey concrete-based background.

However, wearing green whilst conducting roadworks on a country lane may blend in with the fields so opting for a bright orange would be more suitable to make you stand out. Yellow is a great option for most environments as there are few natural places that incorporate lots of yellow meaning that you’ll always be very visible.

Bright orange Portwest hi-vis vest with transparent ID pocket. Labels pointing to the orange hi-vis colour and the silver reflective strips at the base of the vest

On the other hand, reflective clothing could be any colour from bright yellow to black. They work by using materials that reflect the light from other sources such as car headlights, which make the garment stand out in the night, but less noticeable during the daytime.

Most hi-vis PPE workwear uses a combination of both hi-vis and reflective technology to give the wearer the highest level of protection.

How to choose the right high visibility clothing for you

We live in a world where sometimes the one-size-fits-all approach really does not work. One of those times is when it comes to finding the right high visibility clothing for you. Let’s explore what factors you should consider and some of the best options available.

Cartoon woman who has brown hair, wearing yellow hard hat, green shirt, yellow hi-vis vest, with red pencil behind her ear

It’s all about the fit: Hi-vis sizes / styles

Men’s and women’s different body types mean that they require specific garments to efficiently protect them. In 2017 a report carried out by TUC reported that:

· 71% of women wear PPE that has not been designed for female bodies.

· 57% of women found that their PPE hampered their ability to carry out their work.

Women deserve to be properly protected and comfortable at work. Wearing the incorrect workwear can be detrimental to productivity and ill-fitting PPE can sometimes cause more harm than good. Ensure that male and female staff are provided with the right sizes and tailored styles for their bodies to avoid hi-vis protective garments becoming a hazard.

See our Portwest women’s hi-vis range here:

How’s the weather out there? Hi-vis thermals

Do you work indoors or outdoors? Does your job require lots of movement that may cause you to work up a sweat? The temperature of your work environment should influence the type of hi-vis clothing you wear. If you work outdoors, it’s best to have two sets one for the summer and one for the winter months, with a variety of vests and shorts available as well as thick overalls, jackets and trousers to keep warm when the weather becomes cold.

Don’t clash! Hi-vis and other PPE

When two or more types of PPE are worn, they shouldn’t interfere with one another. Make sure your high vis does not get in the way of other PPE you may be required to wear such as hats, earmuffs or gloves. Also be wary of the machinery etc. that you work with and select hi-vis that is tight fitting and less likely to get caught or snagged on any work equipment.

Cartoon man with brown hair wearing yellow hard hat, blue shirt and hi-vis yellow vest

Remember: PPE must always be suitable for the work, if the way of working changes – check that the PPE is still suitable!

Let’s reflect: Hi-vis brightness

Where you work can influence the amount of visibility you need. If working in a factory, you’ll be lit up by the building lights therefore a class 1 or two conspicuity rating will more than likely be efficient. If your job involves being outside at night especially near any roads, it’s best to invest in a hi-vis garment that has multiple reflective elements that use the car headlights to make you stand out from your surroundings.

View our Portwest hi-vis workwear range in full: Hi-Vis | Workwear Selection | Portwest | Rapid Fire Supplies

All Portwest workwear is accompanied with complete official documents, assuring you that we offer only the highest quality, industry standard products.

Get in touch!

If you have any queries about our hi-vis range or need help purchasing from our website, do contact us via tel: 0333 0150 330 or email: cs@rapidfiresupplies.co.uk, we are always happy to help.

Additional links:

High visibility clothing – Vehicles at work (hse.gov.uk)

We are proud members of BSiF


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