A Danish Study about the effectiveness of high-visibility (hi-vis) clothing found that the number of accidents per person per month was 47% lower among bicycle riders who were wearing a hi-vis jacket, and there were 55% fewer accidents between cyclists and motorized vehicles. The findings from this study show the importance of hi-vis clothing for workers in dark or dimly lit areas, or in areas where vehicles are present. In other words, hi-vis clothing has been shown to reduce the risk of accidents and improves overall safety overall since it acts as a first line of defense to protect workers from being injured or killed in these visibility-related accidents. CSA Z96-15 (R2020) specifies performance requirements for color, retroreflection, and minimum areas as well as the configuration of materials of high-visibility safety apparel.
Neon Paint Paved the Way for High-Visibility Clothing
High-visibility fabric paint was invented by an American named Bob Switzer, who in the 1930s was injured in an industrial workplace accident while unloading crates. During his recovery, he and his brother Joe (an amateur magician who had been experimenting with fluorescent chemicals for his act) invented a neon-colored paint by mixing fluorescent minerals with wood varnish. Switzer tested out his new paint, which he called Day-Glo, on his wife’s wedding dress. Soon after, Switzer and Joe were manufacturing this neon paint on a massive scale, making inroads into the toy sector and beyond.
In the wake of the Second World War (1939-1945), the U.S. Government found plenty of use for the Day-Glo Brother’s invention. Its application increased soldier visibility, especially at night during the many the instances of friendly fire during the war. Additionally, the paint was used on fabric panels to send signals from the ground and was recognizable at great distances in the air. Aircraft crewmen wore florescent suits and held ultraviolet lamps as they directed pilots. Areas of ocean that had been scanned for floating explosives were demarcated by buoys that had been painted with the hardy hi-vis paint. World War Two marked today’s use for high-visibility apparel: to improve safety for individual workers while reducing the likelihood of injury while on the job.
The CSA Z96-15 (R2020) Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel
CSA Z96-15 (R2020) focuses on the performance of retroreflective and background materials incorporated in garments intended to provide the wearer with increased conspicuity under both well-illuminated and low-light or dark work environmental conditions. It sets out levels of retroreflective performance (i.e., light reflected from vehicle headlights as viewed by the vehicle operator), the colors and luminosity of background materials, and the human body coverage of the high-visibility components. The standard defines three classes of garments based on body coverage of bright or fluorescent-colored materials, specifies two levels of performance for retroreflective materials, and details special allowances for garments that are mainly intended to provide flame protections. CSA Z96-15 (R2020) is designed to be in technical harmony with ANSI/ISEA 107 and ISO 20471.
Moreover, CSA Z96-15 (R2020) specifies requirements for occupational apparel that is capable of the following:
- Signaling the user’s presence visually
- Providing the user with conspicuity in hazardous situations in any light conditions and under illuminations by vehicle headlights.
What Are Examples of High Visibility Clothing?
High-visibility (hi-vis) apparel includes clothing like jackets, pants, vests, shirts, gloves, and coveralls. Workers wear this clothing to improve how well others see them in a work environment. Hi-vis is particularly pertinent for workers who work around moving vehicles or equipment, especially in low-light environments. Hi-vis clothing is important for workers in the gas and electrical utility industry, and in the transportation industry, such as highway, railway, and airport workers. Construction workers, surveyors, first responders, sanitation workers, and warehouse workers also benefit from the increased visibility of hi-vis clothing.
The Fluorescent And Reflective Properties of Hi-Vis Apparel
By definition, hi-vis has color properties that are easily discernible or fluorescent from any background, and it is highly reflective. Most hi-vis clothing includes a combination of both of these components, such as a fluorescent-colored vest with reflective strips or materials that are both fluorescent and reflective.
1. Fluorescent Elements
Colorful fluorescent elements are made with special pigments that are brighter than normal colors. These pigments reflect invisible ultraviolet light from the sun as a bright, visible light. Fluorescent colors like yellow-green, orange and red (less common in the United States) make the most of any existing sunlight and can be seen more easily in low light conditions like dusk, dawn, and on cloudy days, as the human eye is most sensitive when it sees these colors.
2. Reflective Elements
Reflective strips, tape, or other elements are made from materials that reflect light back to where it comes from. Reflective materials are the most effective in darkness since they do not provide much contrast in daylight conditions.
CSA Z96-15 (R2020): High-Visibility Safety Apparel is available on the ANSI Webstore.