It has been continuously developed since then. Arguably, the two most important developments were the introduction of fluorescent colours (in the 1960s) and reflective elements (in the 1970s). High-visibility workwear is now considered essential PPE in a wide range of industries.
Why hi-visibility workwear is important in the workplace
The whole point of hi-visibility workwear is to make it easier to see the worker even in low lighting. This delivers the benefit of creating a safer workplace. Running safe workplaces benefits employers in three, key ways.
Protects against legal liabilities
Probably the most obvious way running a safe workplace benefits employers is by protecting them from the law.
The UK takes health and safety very seriously. Breaches of it can result in employers facing meaningful sanctions even if the breach does not cause any damage. If the breach does cause damage, the sanctions will be even higher.
Lack of use of hi-visibility workwear is likely to be sanctioned particularly heavily because it is such a basic step in worker protection.
Generates a positive view of the brand
All modern businesses should be well aware that there are courts of law and a court of public opinion. Very few businesses, if any, can afford to ignore the latter. Even if they do not sell directly to consumers, they almost certainly have customers who do. Private individuals can therefore put pressure on a company by putting pressure on its customers.
Aside from ensuring your employees have access to hi-vis workwear and PPC, you can opt for custom hi-vis vests that include your business logo. Not only does this look smart and professional, but if you’re staff are on site, visiting a client or working away, they’re uniform now offers a symbol of trust.
Poor health and safety leads to low productivity. It leads to an increase in avoidable incidents. These lead to disruption and hence downtime.
They also lead to low staff morale. This in turn leads to issues with recruitment and retention. These can create further delays as it means there are regular periods when businesses are understaffed and/or have a lot of untrained staff.
The basics of hi-visibility workwear
At a basic level, hi-visibility workwear can be categorised by class and type. Its class refers to the level of protection (i.e., visibility) it offers. Its type refers to the function it serves.
Hi-visibility workwear classes
In the UK, hi-visibility workwear is classified according to the European standard EN ISO 20471:2013. This standard defines three classes of hi-visibility workwear based on the amount of visible material and reflective tape used in the garment.
Class 1: This is the lowest level of visibility protection and is suitable for low-risk environments. Class 1 workwear includes vests and jackets with a minimum of 0.14 square metres of fluorescent material and 0.10 square metres of reflective tape.
Class 2: This level of visibility protection is suitable for medium-risk environments. Class 2 workwear includes vests, jackets, and trousers with a minimum of 0.50 square metres of fluorescent material and 0.13 square metres of reflective tape.
Class 3: This is the highest level of visibility protection and is suitable for high-risk environments. Class 3 workwear includes jackets and coveralls with a minimum of 0.80 square metres of fluorescent material and 0.20 square metres of reflective tape.
For completeness, other countries use other systems for defining the level of protection offered by hi-visibility workwear. For example, in the USA, the classes are defined by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). It’s important to be aware of this if you need to buy hi-visibility workwear for use overseas.
Types of hi-visibility workwear
The most common types of hi-visibility workwear are vests, shirts, jackets, trousers, and overalls. These can all be worn individually or in combination.
Vests: Hi-vis vests are the most common type of workwear and are worn over regular clothing to provide visibility. They are typically lightweight, breathable, and come in different colours and styles.
Shirts: Hi-vis shirts are typically made from lightweight, breathable materials and come in different styles, including polo shirts and t-shirts. They are useful for warmer conditions where even light jackets would be uncomfortably hot.
Jackets: Hi-vis jackets are designed to provide warmth and protection in addition to visibility. They come in different styles, including bomber, parka, and softshell jackets. Many hi-vis jackets are waterproof.
Trousers: Hi-vis trousers are usually worn over regular trousers to provide additional visibility. As with jackets, they come in different styles and are often waterproof.
Overalls: Hi-vis overalls provide full body visibility and protection. They are typically worn in hazardous work environments and come in different styles and materials.
How different industries use high-visibility workwear
The basic purpose of high-visibility workwear is the same across all industries (and summarised in the name). The practicalities of what this means can, however, be somewhat different. Here are some examples of industries that regularly use hi-visibility workwear and why they do so.
Transportation: Hi-visibility workwear started as a means to improve safety for railway workers. It still performs that function for transportation workers by making sure that they are clearly visible. By extension, it also makes it obvious when an area is clear (and hence safe for use).
Hi-visibility workwear also fulfils a similar function to a uniform. People who are not wearing it are identified as subject to challenge. If they are legitimate, they should be quickly instructed as to how to get the correct workwear.
Construction: The main use of hi-visibility workwear is to make it easy for people in vehicles to see pedestrians. On some sites, it also helps to ensure that members of the public do not wander too close to workers.
Road work: Hi-vis workwear is essential for road workers to ensure that they are visible to motorists while working on busy roads. The UK Highway Agency requires all workers on motorways and other high-speed roads to wear Class 3 hi-visibility workwear.
Emergency services: Emergency services workers wear hi-vis workwear to make sure that they can both see each other and be seen by other people. This is essential to keeping them safe while they are attending to others.
Mining: Miners wear hi-vis workwear to ensure that people operating mining equipment can always see where their colleagues are (and hence are not) while they are working.
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