Your guide to hi-vis clothing in the workplace

Charlotte Miller

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It goes without saying that worker safety is the number one priority in any workplace. That means that all safety precautions like Arc Flash need to be taken and compliance with the relevant health and safety guidelines must be confirmed before any work takes place – and you may well need to invest in hi-vis clothing.

Arc Flash is a safety protocol for employees that requires them to work on electrical equipment and circuits.

Although your old and dirty vest may show off all the hours and hard work you have put in, it is not really doing its job. The purpose of a hi-vis vest is to be visible to those around you, especially in the winter months when mornings and evenings are darker.

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What exactly is hi-vis?

Hi-visibility clothing is brightly coloured. Yellow and orange are the approved hi-vis colours because the human eye is most sensitive to them, and the brain responds very quickly to them.

The clothing also features highly reflective material that takes light from different angles and reflects it back in one line of sight, so hi-vis clothing is very effective even in low light conditions.

Hi-vis and the law

It is really important to understand what you, as an employer, are expected to provide your workers with by law. Or, if you are an employee, you should know what to expect and must adhere to all the rules in place about hi-vis clothing in your workplace.

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 highlight the information above, also stating that if your hi-vis clothing is not in prime condition it will not be able to offer you adequate protection and may even cause additional hazards.

Another important guidance to follow is the BS EN 471 standard – the British Standard for high visibility clothing. Every hi-vis garment comes with two marked standards known as X and Y printed in the garment.

  • ‘X’ standard: this indicates the quality class of the garment. It lets you know how visible the hi-vis will be and displays a number from 1 to 3, class 3 being the best and offering the highest level of visibility.
  • ‘Y’ standard: this indicates the level of retroflection and can be either class 1 or 2, with class 2 being the most reflective.

This standard applies to all hi-vis clothing including harnesses, trousers, waistcoats, vests, jackets, hard hats and headgear. The garments on the list need to meet all the standards and be suitable for the actual conditions of use.

You should also make sure that your hi-vis has the CE mark. This shows that it meets the European/UK rules on PPE standards.

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Factors to consider when choosing hi-vis clothing

It is important to remember that PPE, including hi-vis clothing, must always be appropriate to the work being performed. If the working or weather conditions change you must check that the hi-vis is still standards-compliant and suited to the new tasks that workers perform.

During the hot summer months, you can wear hi-vis vests and t-shirts and for the colder months, hi-vis sweatshirts and coats are available to keep you warm and seen.

Another factor you should consider is the brightness of clothing that you need. For example, if you work in a factory, you’ll be lit up by the building lights and therefore a class 1 or 2 rating will more than likely be efficient.

However, if your job involves being outside at night, especially near any roads, it’s best to invest in a more reflective hi-vis garment. This includes class 3 visibility that has multiple reflective elements and allows lights such as car headlights to make you stand out from your surroundings.

Final word

Although brand new and super bright hi-vis clothing may not be all the rage, it is important to remember that you have a legal obligation to comply with health and safety standards, and those include the regulations applicable to hi-vis clothing.