A beginners guide to High Visibility Clothing

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When working on construction sites, railroads and roadside environments it's always important that you're seen by others, especially in conditions where visibility is hampered by lack of light or bad weather. High visibility clothing utilises a combination of fluorescent fabrics and reflective striping to help increase the wearers visual presence and in doing so, help to reduce the likelihood of an accident.

High visibility clothing comes in a number of different classifications as defined by the European Committee for Standardization. These products are broken up into three classes based on their levels of fabric and reflective material present - level 1 being the lowest standard, and level 3 being the highest. There is also a special rating for railway and highway use which gains its own safety specification - GO/RT 3279.

EN ClassificationLevel of protectionMinimum background materialMinimum reflective materialCompliant garment coloursTypical usage environments
EN 471 Class 1Low0.14m20.10m2 (2m of 5cm wide reflective tape)
On site environments such as depots and factories.
EN 471 Class 2Medium0.50m20.13m2 (2.6m of 5cm wide reflective tape)
Suitable for use in public where traffic speeds are less than 40mph.
EN 471 Class 3High0.80m20.20m2 (4m of 5cm wide reflective tape)
Suitable for use in public areas where traffic speeds exceed 40mph.
GO/RT 3279 (rail spec)Medium0.50m20.13m2(2.6m of 5cm wide reflective tape)
Railways and roadsides
EN 1150 (non-professional use only)Very LowCombination of any fabric and retro reflective materialAny colourAny non-professional purpose such as cycling

Can I get hi-vis clothing with other benefits?

Yes! Just because a product is EN471, doesn't mean that is the only protection it offers. Hi-vis products can also be waterproof, anti-static, flame retardant and much more - Always check the En accreditations of each item before you buy to ensure it is up to task.

What type of high visibility products are available?

There are a number of hi-vis and enhanced vis clothing products available, with items such as:

Helly Hansen Ludvika Hi VisJacket
Jackets
Hi Vis Waistcoat
Vests
Helly Hansen Hi Vis Hoodie
Sweaters
Dickies Hi Vis Polo Shirt
Polo shirts
Supertouch Hi Vis Trousers
Trousers
Helly Hansen Ludvika Hi Vis Suit
Overalls
Cofra Radar Hi Vis TShirt
T-shirts
Shugon Hi-Vis Backpack
Backpacks *
Yoko Hi Vis Beanie Hat
Hats *
Blaklader 2240 Hi Vis Gloves
Gloves *

* these items do not conform to the EN471 standard.

How can I determine if my existing Hi Vis Clothing is fit for purpose?

Most EN compliant garments have the specification they conform to printed on the inner labels. If you are unable to find this information on the label, contact the store you purchased the item from and ask them for the EN specification number for the garment. Once you know the specification, use the table above to determine if your hi vis garment is suitable for the environment you are working in.

My workers already wear fluorescent clothing, isn't this safe?

Many assume that because a product is made with fluorescent fabric, or that it has some reflective piping or stripes, that it conforms to en471 - this isn't strictly true. The combination of fabric and retro-reflective material itself is what classifies what level the clothing is. The bright colours are designed to make visual presence better in daytime, but the reflective stripes are what gives it the visual impact in low light conditions. Without reflective strips a fluorescent fabric would actually be less effective than white which reflects more light.

Does washing impact the usefulness of the hi-vis?

The reflective properties are impacted from washing, and depending on the manufacturers guidelines the amount of washes can vary. The effectiveness of any hi-vis clothing is also impacted adversely by dirt and grime, so washing is advised - but it is always a good idea to refer to the manufacturer washing guidelines. Do bear in mind that any item which also has special coatings or properties such as flame and heat resistance will eventually weaken with each subsequent wash.

I require some personalised hi-vis clothing for my company - can they be embroidered or printed on?

Of course. Hi-vis vests are often printed on for branding purposes, although if the product has any waterproofing or flame resistant properties, then special steps must be taken in order to preserve its protective attributes.

What separates the EN471 classifications?

As previously mentioned, the ratings for EN471 high visibility clothing are determined by two attributes: The total surface area of the fluorescent fabric, and the length of reflective tape which has been used on the garment. Reflective tape should be 5cm/50mm wide to be compliant. For the three classes of this standard, the only acceptable colours are Yellow, orange, and orange red. Go/RT clothing only comes in orange, and usually has the same surface properties and length of tape as any EN471 class 2 product.

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