Editorial | 17 February 2022

Your hi-vis could be putting you at risk

We’re not trying to say that your hi-vis is involved in a conspiracy to kill you. That sounds like the plot of a very bad horror film.

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The meaning of this article is to get you to question, does your hi-vis conform to standard?

You may be saying, “Of course it conforms to standard! I got it from the guy at work who knows all about standards”.

If you are, don’t close the article just yet - we are going somewhere with this.

To conform to standard EN20471 a certain amount of fluorescent material and reflective tape must be visible.

Here are some of the things that will affect the visibility of your hi-vis.

  • Where you bought it
  • How often you wash it
  • How heavily branded is it
  • How old it is
  • How far away you are

Are you close enough to be visible?

Imagine you’re a Formula 1 driver. Hurtling around a track at 200mph, it takes you less than 3 seconds to travel 200m.

You notice a person on the track ahead of you. You need as much time as possible to react and avoid the accident.

Formula 1 stewards are dressed head to toe in orange. This makes them as visible as possible for the drivers.

The further away you are, the less visible you will be. This is stating the obvious.

Someone wearing a hi-vis vest who is 10m away is more noticeable than someone who is 100m away.

Are you visible enough to your colleagues?

You can do two things to be more visible:

  • Wear a more visible garment, class 2 or 3
  • If that’s not possible add other hi-vis clothing, such as overtrousers

By taking one of these actions, you’re increasing how much fluorescent fabric can be seen.

The more noticeable you are, the more time a driver has to react.

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How often do you wash your hi-vis?

On every construction site and in every warehouse, someone is wearing a hi-vis that is filthy.

It’s the mark of a site veteran. A badge of honour!

Perhaps …

What’s certain is that the hi-vis no longer follows standard EN20471.

Why? The fluorescent material is covered in dirt, grease, and grime.

Hi-vis vests are the main culprit here. They’re an overgarment.

It’s easy to forget to wash your vest. You get given it on your first day. At the end of a workday, you leave it in your work locker, or in your car.

Over time dark grease builds up, covering the fluorescent material. As it happens slowly, it’s not immediately noticeable.

Now, a grubby hi-vis is still better than no hi-vis. But only just.

The solution is a simple one: now and then, give your hi-vis a wash.

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Is your hi-vis faded?

Not washing your hi-vis is one thing. Washing it too much is another.

The simple fact is, over-washing and washing clothing incorrectly causes the colours to fade.

Where you’re buying your hi-vis from may be different. But Blackrock’s hi-vis range has clear washing instructions sewn into every garment.

If you wash your hi-vis according to what it says on the label, well done you. If not, give it a go. Your clothes will last longer!

An extra benefit of longer-lasting hi-vis is you’re being kinder to the environment. Hi-vis is tricky to recycle. But that’s a topic for another day.

Exposure to sunlight is another issue. UV causes colours to fade. In this scenario, there’s not much you can do about it.

It is up to you, to replace your hi-vis if it’s become faded from sun exposure. It’s a decision that could save you from serious injury.

A faded, uncompliant hi-vis will unnecessarily increase the risk of injury.

Remember what we said earlier? The more vibrant you are, the easier you are to see.

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Where did you buy your hi-vis?

First off, let’s be clear. We’re not finger-pointing. It’s not our style.

But where you buy your new hi-vis from makes a difference.

Trusted suppliers, like Blackrock, can guarantee that your hi-vis will conform to standard EN20471 when you purchase it.

Why do we guarantee it?

Because if it didn’t conform to standard, you are more at risk of injury. Which could mean your company ends up in the daily SHP newsletter in a years’ time with a whopping great fine.

On the other hand, if your hi-vis is purchased at a local car boot sale, who knows where it’s come from?

Are you sure it had the correct amount of reflective tape and fluorescent material?

In 2015 a company was fined £70,000 for “selling hi-vis jackets that weren’t reflective”.

Buying from trusted brands will help guarantee your safety.

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How heavily branded is your hi-vis?

Personalising your hi-vis to your business is a must, right? It makes the clothing look cohesive and every team should have a uniform.

However, there is a point when branding becomes overbranding.

If you’ve read this far you may have guessed where we’re going with this. Too much branding will stop a hi-vis from conforming to standard EN20471.

Any branding will cover the fluorescent material. So, there will come a point where so much has been covered that the minimum requirements are no longer met for that class.

Building on the point we made earlier. It’s important to buy hi-vis from trusted brands.

Our personalised hi-vis service ensures that a garment meets standards after it’s been branded.

This way you can safely go about your business knowing your hi-vis is doing what it’s been designed to do.

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What are the main takeaways?

At the end of the day, hi-vis is there to make you more visible.

Too much coverage of the fluorescent material will stop it meeting EN20471.

Have the following in mind with your hi-vis:

  • Anything covering the fluorescent material will make you less visible.
  • Does the place where you bought your hi-vis have a good reputation for safety?
  • Hi-vis will become faded over time and will need replacing.
  • The more hi-vis you wear, the more visible you are.

If you want to make sure your hi-vis is up to standard, get in contact with us.