High-Visibility Clothing Will Save Your Life
Accidents happen, especially in relation to road safety, because a driver failed to see the passer-by.
To reduce the occurrence of injuries and work-related accidents, people who are at risk are advised to wear high-visibility (high-vis) clothing and workwear.
This refers to any clothing with highly reflective properties which often involves silver reflective tape. In other cases, this type of clothing involves the use of colours that can easily be discerned from afar in contrast to the surroundings.
In work environments, industrial employees are required to wear high-vis clothing as a part of their personal protective equipment (PPE).
In this article, we discuss statistics, laws in Australia around high-vis, how high-vis gear is made, choosing the right garments, and other considerations around workwear.
Statistics and Other Facts
Numbers do not lie, as they say, and poor visibility-related injuries are not an exception. In relation to road safety, speeding is one of the leading causes of fatal vehicle accidents in Australia. In 2018, about 34% of crashes took place in major cities in the country. At least one out of 10 accidents resulted in deaths.
According to research, poor visibility, along with miscalculation, is a significant reason why collisions happen as drivers reverse their cars. To resolve this issue, many vehicles now come with reverse cameras.
Cyclists are among those who should be wearing high-vis cycling jerseys to increase their safety. However, some refuse to wear fluorescent riding jackets. As a result, the risk of an accident is higher compared to those who choose to wear high-vis while on their bikes.
While there are other reasons for crashes involving cyclists, the number of accidents continues to rise. Every year, over 1,000 individuals are killed due to vehicular accidents and almost 40 people die in Australia while riding their bikes.
Meanwhile, work-related injuries and fatalities are also quite common due to low visibility. Each year, an average of almost 500 workers die, and about 300 lost their lives due to injuries sustained relating to work activities. In 2009, about 100 workers died because of road accidents.
For personnel working along the road, it is vital to be visible during daytime and night-time. Over recent years, requirements relating to wearing fluorescent clothing, as well as reflective materials, have become a part of daily work. Unfortunately, many workers are still neglecting the importance of wearing high-vis garments.
Why High-Vis Clothing is Necessary
Motorcyclists, passengers, car and truck drivers are all at risk. Workers and pedestrians are also in danger because accidents can happen at any time, anywhere. It is essential to take precautions while on the road, whether you are at work, driving, or walking.
Work-related fatalities that involved cars resulted in at least 46% of accidents. Apart from that, workers also face threats, such as moving objects hitting them, falling and being injured because of falling objects.
Wearing high-visibility clothing can help lower accidents relating to poor vision. Because of the materials and colours used in these clothing items, drivers can avoid hitting workers while on the road. High visibility clothing is beneficial for everyone, but most notably those in the construction and industrial business.
Each year, there are numerous construction-related deaths. In fact, this industry has one of the highest instances of injuries and fatalities. There are preventative measures that companies implement to increase worker safety, and one of them is wearing high-vis clothing.
Among the greatest threats to worker safety are falls, slips, trips, and the like. These accidents can be mitigated with the garments to some extent. For instance, those who work wearing high-visibility vests can be seen even during rainy or winter season. Also, if there is an emergency, the industrial workers can easily be seen, thanks to their clothing. First responders and rescue personnel can find employees in a crisis.
High-Vis Laws in Australia
Australian standards expect and require workers to wear high-vis garments. This way, they will remain visible while on the road or near machinery. Before purchasing and wearing shirts and other apparel, it is significant to understand the requirements under the legislative orders. It will help ensure that business owners know that the gear complies with these standards.
A common misconception is that bright yellow or orange shirt is enough to meet the Australian standards. It is a false belief and should be corrected right away. High-vis gear often looks the same, but it is essential to wear Australian-made clothing that is compliant to the AS/NZS standards.
Australian designed high-vis clothing is created for workers in the country. They are crafted in compliance with certain standards, which are as follows:
1. AS/NZ 4602.1
This standard refers to the garments used for high-risk applications. It states the items that employees can use, so they remain safe from moving equipment and vehicles. In this standard, there are three classes:
- Class D for daytime use only: Garments in this classification help the wearer be easily seen even under daylight conditions. An example is a navy or yellow polo that does not include a tape. To meet the 4602.1 standards, a Class D compliant garment should be of the approved colour (yellow, red, orange-red, and orange plus yellow), which must enclose the upper torso. The luminous fabric should encircle at least 0.4 square metres of the upper torso. If there is a logo, it should not be more significant than 10cm for both height and width.
- Class N for night-time use: Garments within this category should be viewable even under retro-reflected light. An example is the headlight of a vehicle. The requirement for Class N is quite lengthy, but the minimum involves having a reflective tape or material that should be at least 50mm wide.
- Class D/N: This type denotes that the garment can be worn during daytime and night-time. It should meet both standards. An example here is a yellow polo that comes with reflective tape.
2. AS/NZ 1906.4
The second standard involves retro-reflective devices used to control road traffic. It is more in-depth than the other standard since the 1906.4 specifies the physical properties of the materials, along with their photometric and colourimetric qualities. It entails the three different classes below:
- Class F for fluorescent fabric that can only be used during the day
- Class R for reflective items that should be used at night
- Class FR for both day and night-time use
The standard also goes into detail about the impacts of washing, particularly with reflective materials. Businesses and workers should understand that these items can only be washed up to 30 times. Going over means, the item loses its integrity and should no longer be utilised.
How High-Vis Gear is Made
High-visibility clothing is designed using a fluorescent material. It usually comes with reflective tape for extra visibility. In some cases, other shapes are added so the wearer will be more visible to other people around them.
The first fabric paint that was used for high-visibility gear was introduced in the 1930s. It was neon paint that was a mixture of wood varnish and minerals that were illuminating. It became a huge hit and was used in toys and the military sector.
A few decades later, the neon paint was used for clothing for workers. In essence, its purpose was for the sun’s ultraviolet rays to hit the fluorescent colours, causing a glowing reaction. Poor light will not hinder the effect, such as during dawn. It is also designed to work at times when the car headlamps hit the clothing.
Many materials are not used to be retro-reflective. The term means that the light returns to its source. For instance, the headlights of the car will bounce back to the driver or the person near the source of light.
It is also possible to find materials made from glass beads. This technology can spread the light, so it scatters from various directions. High-vis clothing can come in different colours, such as blue, green, red, and even pink. For safety purposes, though, the most efficient hues are yellow and orange.
How to Choose the Right High-Vis Gear
High-visibility clothing is not about being fashionable. You can find cheaper versions that can help you save a ton of money. However, they may not help in keeping workers safe. The goal is to prevent accidents, which is why you should not skimp on this type of personal protective equipment (PPE) as with the others.
Always choose a high-vis gear that is made from high-quality materials. Before buying, you should first think about the tasks of the operators who will wear the clothing. Also, it is best to consider the hazards that they will continuously be exposed to.
Hi-vis reflective jacket jackets are not the only option when it comes to reflective clothing. Sometimes, it can be quite warm for a jacket, which is why a vest is a good alternative. Vests that come with insulated lining will help keep the wearers warm without getting hot. At the same time, the gear will maintain their visibility.
Vehicle accidents are a common issue for those who work along the road. However, careless drivers are not the only problem. Remaining visible should not just be a single concern because there are also weather-related threats. Heavy rain and snow, as well as lightning storms, can make the workers’ job tricky. Ensure that the workers wear waterproof breathable gear.
It is not necessary, but some companies opt to brand their workwear. It comes with numerous benefits, including ingraining your company’s logo onto the shirt or vest. This strategy helps with the business becoming more recognisable, especially if the workers are always on the road.
All in all, what matters is that high-visibility clothing is wearable and comfortable for the workers. The material should be breathable and of the correct size. This way, they will not have problems in performing their tasks because the high-vis gear feels like regular clothing for them. For extreme comfort, a high-vis shirt is often the best option. Police officers, crane operators, and construction workers pick this type of high-vis gear because it does not restrict their movement.
The garment should be appropriate for the job and the weather as well. Sometimes, companies provide suitable clothing depending on the season. Also, some jobs require special features. For instance, those who work at manufacturing plants, firefighters, and the like will benefit from a fire-resistant type of high-vis clothing.
Does High-Vis Wear Out?
PPE, including high-vis garments, are sturdy, but they are not designed to last for a lifetime. They have a recommended shelf life, and they will wear out after some time. In Australia, the standard, as mentioned above, only allows the wearer to wash the material up to 30 times. Once you have reached this maximum number, you will have to look for a replacement of the garment.
Some items do not last as long as their shelf life, particularly those that are continuously exposed to tough weather conditions. If the employees work under the hot sun, the garments are not expected to last long. To know if it is time to replace the garment, be sure to look out for the following signs:
- There are cracks, tears, and other signs of damage
- You do not feel comfortable whenever you wear it, such as that it does not fit you properly
- It distracts you from your work because it is a little heavy, for example
- The UV rays or chemicals have heavily damaged the gear
You aim to prevent accidents as much as possible. The vests and other types of gear are designed to keep the workers safe. However, if they are no longer serving their purpose, it is time to look for a replacement.
Should You Start Wearing High-Vis Clothing?
You may have seen many people avoiding high-vis clothing for various reasons. They may justify why they do not want to wear this type of gear while working, but it does not mean you should do the same. If you are involved in any form of hazardous work, such as the ones above, you must wear high-vis clothing:
- Road construction
- Guarding crossings
- Driving trucks
- Managing utilities
- Operating railways
- Performing medical or emergency services
- Signalling, hoisting and working with cranes
Other jobs, such as being a traffic controller, police officer, airport ground operator, maritime shipping operator, and firefighter, also require enhanced safety equipment. It should always include high-visibility clothing.