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The second most common cause of death in the workplace is being hit by a moving vehicle, and this type of accident accounts for 17% of all fatalities. Hi-vis workwear is essential in ensuring that employees easily stand out and are protected from the risk of an accident occurring within their industry. From airport staff to construction workers, there are multiple sectors where wearing hi-vis clothing is mandatory, but it’s a good idea for many other workplaces too, due to the effectiveness of the clothing and its affordability for the employer.
How Does Hi-Vis Clothing Work?
Hi-vis clothing is made using fluorescent material with retro-reflective sections. During the day, the fluorescent clothing will absorb and emit UV light which gives it a glow that helps to keep workers visible as they perform their roles. In bad weather such as a storm or fog, or conditions where light is low, the effect is even more pronounced. At night-time, the tape or reflective sections of the clothing use incoming light from sources such as vehicle headlights which bounces back the light to alert approaching traffic that workers are present. When motorists or pedestrians can see you from a distance, they have more time to react and can avoid hitting you.
Who Should Wear Hi-Vis Clothing?
If your employer has a high-visibility clothing policy, then it is a requirement of the job that you comply with this regulation. Typically, any type of role within the construction sector will require you to wear hi-vis clothing, or any other job where moving vehicles are operational onsite. If the role is public-facing, then it’s likely that you’ll need to wear more high-visibility clothing as members of the public may not be aware that construction workers are in the area. Long-sleeved hi-vis jackets are required in public areas such as if you’re working on a motorway, involved in traffic management as part of the police force, or even as a lollipop lady where oncoming traffic may not be aware of your presence. Conversely, if you’re operating a vehicle on a closed construction site, then it might be more appropriate to wear a sleeveless hi-vis vest as you’ll be working in an environment where everyone expects there to be hazards.
Each company will have their own high-visibility policy, so it’s important to read and understand it thoroughly when you accept a new job. This way you’ll be protecting yourself and also your colleagues from the risk of an accident.
Quality Hi-Vis Clothing Standards
Unfortunately, not all hi-vis workwear is created equal, so if you’re an employer looking to kit out your crew, it’s important that you only invest in quality high-visibility protective clothing which meets industry standards. The UK and EU standard to satisfy is BS EN 471 – which details that the background colour of the garment should be fluorescent yellow or orange from table 2 and the retro-reflective materials should comply with table 5 of BS EN 471. It is important to note that other fluorescent colours will not meet the safety regulations set out for high visibility garments. They should also be marked with CE on the label to signify that they meet EU standards as well as British.
Responsibilities As An Employer
If you’re an employer, it is your obligation to provide your employees with the necessary high-visibility PPE gear to allow them to perform their tasks safely whilst meeting the legal requirements of the 1992 Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations. Your employees should not have to pay for their own hi-vis PPE kit, although it may be their responsibility to maintain it and ensure that they’re wearing it correctly and at the required times.
As an employer it is vital that you choose a quality provider of PPE gear that supplies hi-vis clothing that is CE certified and meets the necessary BS EN 471 standards. Depending on the type of tasks your workforce carries out, you’ll need to decide if you should equip them with Class 1, 2 or 3 high-visibility gear.
Choosing Your Kit
Class 1 offers the lowest level of protective clothing, including items such as hi-vis trousers. Going up a level to Class 2 offers intermediate protection such as hi-vis vests which are velcro-fastening. These are common for construction workers and are low-priced, costing employers as little as £1.25 per vest regardless of the quantity you order. The top-level of protection is found in Class 3 which is the home of hi-vis jackets and long-sleeved tops. These are required in the most dangerous scenarios such as for traffic management or public-facing construction workers, so as much of the body as possible should be wearing reflective gear to alert people of their presence from a distance.