Winter is here. Along with it comes dark nights, grey weather and the possibility of sleet and snow. In this climate, visibility is essential, especially for those who work outdoors, travel by bike, or are unfortunate enough to become stranded by bad weather.
Fortunately, visibility can be improved using high-visibility clothing (high-vis). Furthermore, employers are required by law to issue high-vis clothing free-of-charge to workers exposed to the risks of low visibility in their roles. So, it’s in everyone’s interests to think about visibility this season.
High-vis garments are designed to improve the wearer’s visibility in both daylight and low-light or night-time settings. Contrary to popular belief, they do not glow in the dark. However, the most effective garments combine fluorescent material with reflective strips or bands. This pairing improves your visibility during both day and night due to the way these two different materials react to sunlight and artificial light sources respectively.
Fluorescent for Daytime
Fluorescent materials appear to glow when exposed to sunlight, making them an effective way of staying visible during the day. They are especially powerful in poor light conditions such as fog or at dusk because of their glowing appearance, which is created when they react to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.
UV light is usually invisible to the naked eye due to its short wavelength. However, when exposed to UV rays, fluorescent materials react at a molecular level and release some of the UV energy they have absorbed, emitting it in the form of visible light. As a result, these colours appear brighter than others – giving them their glowing appearance.
High-vis garments come in a variety of fluorescent colours, as defined under EN 1150 Quality Standards. When choosing high-vis, it is important to consider which colour will stand out the most against the wearer’s background setting. For example:
Regardless which colour, all fluorescent materials require UV light to be effective. So, on their own, they are ineffective at night.
Reflective for Night-time
The most effective high-vis garments include reflective material. Those familiar grey strips on high-vis garments are actually reflective strips or bands which appear to glow when exposed to artificial light such as headlights, street lamps or torches.
Reflective materials are typically made using tiny glass beads or vinyl prisms which scatter or reflect light. The safest garments are retroreflective, meaning they direct light back towards the source – perfect for reflecting headlight beams back to drivers, for instance. In fact, drivers can see you three seconds sooner in high-vis garments, which could be crucial to your safety.
A vast selection of high-vis garments are available to keep workers visible across several activities and settings. Lightweight, high-vis waistcoats can be worn over other clothes, while high-vis coats keep individuals working outdoors warm and seen at the same time. In addition, these can be matched with high-vis trousers or accessories to improve overall visibility and make staff noticeable from more angles.
To ensure compliance with the latest legislation, look for garments manufactured to BS EN 471 standards. In addition, the garment’s label should include a pictogram indicating its level of conspicuity (visibility) and retroreflective performance. In both cases, the higher the number, the greater the effectiveness of the garment.