5 Secrets of Hi-Vis Clothing

Employers in sectors such as Traffic Management or Construction recognise the value in the humble high-vis clothing products. Hi-Vis has become synonymous with certain sectors, due to the eye-catching colours and ability to make the wearer instantly obvious.

However, many business owners may not know that it is a legal responsibility to provide their team with high-visibility protective garments in any environment where there is the potential risk of injury or death. Employers are legally obligated to provide these products to their team and shoulder the expense as part of their wider obligations to their staff.

Hi-Vis products are deployed across multiple sectors, saving lives by making the wearer easy to spot, even in low-lighting conditions. It is usually available in yellow, orange or (less commonly, green). It’s the most common item of Personal Protective Equipment used in hazardous environments, such as when working on roads undertaking maintenance and repair, or in traffic management scenarios.

1)     It is governed by legislation

As with all PPE, the deployment of high-vis and the standards applicable to it are provided through clear safety legislation and regulatory requirements. All Hi-Vis products are required to carry a CE mark, to evidence that it is fit for purpose and manufactured to the required standards. In addition to having CE marking, high-Vis products also have additional standards which make clear recommendations for deploying it safely and effectively, including:

  • Ensuring that tabards are well-fitting, without any loose components which may become entangled with machinery or equipment
  • Risk assessing environmental conditions, to ensure that in dark conditions, your team have access to a wider range of hi-Vis products
  • Adapting your kit to suit the season, switching from full jackets such as our Hi-Vis Fleece Lined Bomber Jacket to vests, waistcoats or other products to ensure workers are comfortable in their role
  • Choosing products which do not restrict movement for the wearer, which could lead to additional safety risks
  • Selecting items which are compatible with the employees’ wider suite of Personal Protective Equipment
  • Ensuring that your team know how to clean, store and manage their suite of high-Vis products, to maintain optimum performance
  • Providing full training and supervision for operatives in the field, to ensure that they know the best practice governing the effective deployment of high-Vis products.


2)     It enhances professionalism

Deploying high-visibility products is as much about professionalism, as it is about safety. Equipping your team with the right high-Vis kit immediately marks them out as being engaged in work tasks. It can mean that in circumstances where the general public need to identify who may provide assistance, they are able to pick out your employees without any ambiguity.

As high-Vis products are synonymous with specific sectors, it’s the ideal way of highlighting to the community who is undertaking works such as Highway Maintenance.

Hi-Vis products are available across the full range of clothing, encompassing trousers, coveralls, jackets, waistcoats, harnesses, bibs and tabards. In addition to the CE marking, compliant items of Hi-Vis clothing will also have a specific rating, based upon its performance. Class 1 is the lowest rating, Class 2 provides a medium degree of reflection, and Class 3 is the highest level of protection. The ‘Y’ rating refers to the retroreflection performance, relating to visibility in dark conditions, when light shines on the product.


3)     It optimises worker identity

As referenced in point two, above, having your team wearing a uniform range of Hi-Vis kit does much more then make them more visible in low lighting conditions. Hi-Vis has been the standard colour scheme for operatives working across the UK’s services including on motorways and highways, aviation, and other high-risk environments. As a result, there is a collective and immediate association in the minds of the public, which recognises that an individual sporting Hi-Vis is accountable and responsible for keeping the public safe, and undertaking critical roles in our society.

This means that communities automatically adopt unconscious behaviours when they encounter Hi-Vis garments. This may include slowing down when driving near operatives on the motorway, or giving staff a wide berth in airports, for example. The Hi-Vis garment is synonymous with safety at work. It also serves to bring benefits to the wearer, through a sense of shared identity with their colleagues. It fosters a sense of belonging, and wearing the garments leads to a greater sense of accountability for safety and maintaining the trust of the community.

4)     It creates a safer working environment

High-visibility clothing is manufactured using fluorescent material, which provides it with the ability to reflect whatever light is available within the environment. It features additional reflective tape which ‘bounce’ light through prisms before reflecting it outwards. Due to the way that the light is concentrated in a single direction, it intensifies the brightness of the available light source.

As a result, Hi-Vis clothing provides an invaluable service to operatives working in hazardous conditions, at risk from being hit by traffic. Donning Hi-Vis garments serves to optimise whatever sources of light may be available (whether natural, through vehicle headlights, overhead lighting in work environments, torches or other sources), maximising the potential for the wearer to be noticed.


5)     Different Hi-Vis products have different degrees of protection

Hi-Vis clothing is required to adhere to standard EN471:2003 (High-visibility warning clothing for professional use). This is the standard which replaces the 1994 criteria, to ensure that corporate styles of clothing can also be classified as Hi-Vis, without compromising on personal safety.

Garments tested to EN471: 1994 can continue to be sold, however any new designs must be tested to the revised standard. There are three classifications for high-visibility garments, which reflect the degree of conspicuity each provides for their wearer. Standards dictate that all garments are required to have a reflective strip of 50mm wide or more, to be effective.

These are the breakdowns for the three levels of classification:

  • CLASS 1: Lowest level of visibility
    • Minimum background material 0.14m2
    • Minimum Retro-reflective material 0.10m2
    • Used where there is minimal risk such as off-road activities. Hi-vis trousers will commonly meet this standard, when worn separately from upper garments
  • CLASS 2: Medium visibility
    • Minimum background material 0.5m2
    • Minimum Retro-reflective material 0.13m2 
  • CLASS 3: Highest Level of visibility
    • Minimum background material 0.8m2
    • Minimum Retro-reflective material 0.2m2
    • Extra protection is provided through jackets with sleeves to be worn in accordance with Clause 4.2.4, and to Class 3 on dual carriageway roads, with a speed limit of 50mph or above.


As an employer, it is your responsibility to equip your team with the right classification of Hi-Vis safety garments, for the risks associated with their role. If you’re unsure which is the ideal suite of products for your employees, feel free to get in touch with a member of the SMI team, and we’ll walk you through the legislative requirements and standards applicable to this type of protection.