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I Didn’t See You Mate – When High Visibility Matters



Have you noticed how many people are going about in high visibility clothing these days? It seems that you can’t drive a van or bang in a nail any more without wearing a fluorescent jacket – and probably a hard hat, safety boots, goggles, and knee pads too. What’s going on? Are these health and safety gone mad? It surely can’t be long before the newsreaders on TV are wearing high visibility vests to deliver their bulletins.

Standing Out from the Crowd

The problem is of course that when everybody is in high visibility clothing it’s the ones who aren’t that stand out. If you want to steal something (don’t try this at home, kids) do it wearing your bright yellow jacket and nobody will bat an eyelid. But leaving crime aside, when do you really need to use high visibility wear and how do you select the right type for your needs?

Be Seen!

The purpose of high visibility outfits is to ensure that the work stands out from the background and can be seen easily by drivers and other machinery operators. It first came into use on the railways in the 1960s. In some cases a simple waistcoat may be all that’s required: in others – such as road workers – a full high visibility outfit may be required. If working outside after dark it is important that your protective clothing includes some reflective material so that it’s picked up by vehicle headlights.

Dress for the Job

Of course, protective clothing needs to be suitable for the job being done. Loose-fitting items aren’t suitable when working with machinery for example as there’s a risk they may get snagged. Remember that if the work changes the clothing may need to change along with it so it’s important to carry out regular assessments. Clothing needs to be suitable for the wearer too, fit properly, and not restrict movement.

Fashion at Work

There are times when you may need to combine high visibility wear with other forms of protection. Workers dealing with chemicals for example need protection against spills but may also need visibility. If workers are outdoors in bad weather then they either need protective clothing that includes high visibility elements or that is capable of being worn under other high visibility garments.

All high visibility clothing must be manufactured the appropriate standard – currently BS EN 471.  This ensures that it meets the legal requirements for protective workwear. You’ll notice that items are labeled with numbers indicating their visibility and reflective performance; one being the lowest and three the highest.

Employers’ Responsibilities

As an employer there are certain things you have to do where high visibility clothing is required:

•You must provide high visibility clothing free of charge to any employees who may be exposed to safety risks.

•Clothing provided must be clean and well-maintained and should be checked before it’s given to employees.

•Storage must be provided for clothing when it’s not in use.

•You must provide information and training to allow employees to use high visibility wear effectively. This needs to include an explanation of the risks and of how and when the clothing should be worn.

•Employees must be supervised to ensure they’re using protective clothing correctly.

Learn How to Dress Correctly

Employees should wear the clothing provided in accordance with their training and keep it in good condition. Any damage or defects should be reported and the storage facilities provided should be used when it’s not in use.

Determining when high visibility wear is and isn’t required shouldn’t be too hard. You need to assess the risks and if employees are likely to be at risk from road traffic or other moving machinery then it’s likely some form of high visibility clothing is required. If it is then ensure that you follow the rules above and that will make sure that you stay on the right side of the law and that your workers stay safe. If you’re employing them to read the news then high visibility probably isn’t needed – unless you expect them to do it from the hard shoulder.