Safe By Being Seen | The Importance of High Visibility Clothing

Posted on: December 19th, 2022 by Valerie Wetlaufer | No Comments

What Is Hi-Vis?

The importance of high visibility clothing cannot be overstated. High visibility clothing, sometimes called hi vis or hi viz, is a vital element of workplace uniforms for many industries. The term refers to any garment worn that is brightly luminescent in its natural property, or a color that can be clearly discernible from any background. It’s often seen in the colors fluorescent green, orange, or yellow. The main reason hi vis garments are worn is to increase the wearer’s visibility and thereby prevent accidents caused by them not being seen.


“Our customers choose high visibility clothing for several reasons,” says Chriss Carsello, CITY’s Strategic Partnerships expert.  “It’s a form of PPE (personal protective equipment) and most often it is an OHSA requirement. Customers want to ensure their employees are safe and compliant. CITY offers a number of garments that satisfy their needs that meet OHSA requirements and the comfort levels that employees want and deserve.”


Since its development in the early twentieth century, hi vis clothing has changed a lot, and become standardized. Today, there are specific guidelines to which such garments must conform, as set by the International Safety Equipment Association.


At CITY, we take the safety of our customers very seriously, which is why we’re proud to offer high quality garments that meet international high-visibility standards [ANSI/ISEA 107-2020]. In workplaces like construction sites, other places with moving vehicles and many other industries where it’s imperative for workers to be easily seen against any background, our high-vis uniforms provide an important level of safety.


Prevention is key for any workplace, and proper high visibility workwear reduces the risk of accidents and fatalities in busy environments, whether when your employees are working near vehicular traffic, or in busy industrial environments.


In addition to the advantages high vis clothing provides from a safety standpoint, it can also be effective for managers to easily identify staff and authorized personnel at a certain location, especially where access is controlled or restricted for safety or security reasons.


History of Hi-Vis


Bob Switzer invented high-visibility clothing in the 1930s after he got injured while unloading crates in Berkeley, California. His tragic accident permanently damaged his eyesight, preventing him from pursuing his dream of becoming a physician. It just so happened that Bob’s brother Joe had been researching fluorescent chemicals. Together they developed early prototypes of reflective materials. The first fluorescent paint they developed was named “Day-Glo” because it made materials painted with it shine as if they were glowing in the sunlight.


During WWII, the reflective material saw a huge growth in popularity as the US Army used it to reduce friendly fire by increasing a soldier’s visibility. They also used fabric panels dipped in reflective paint to signal to airplanes above them.


Being able to substantially increase the observation distance of workers in dark or dimly-lit areas has also decreased the incidence of workplace accidents.


While the technology behind high-visibility PPE has changed, the primary purpose behind this safety gear remains similar to the original products. High-Vis PPE is meant to improve safety for individual workers while reducing the likelihood of injury while on the job.


OSHA rules require that high visibility garments (such as strong red, orange, yellow, and yellow-green) must contrast with other colors in the area sufficiently to make wearers stand out. The garments must also reflect from all sides for 1,000 feet during hours of darkness.


The American National Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel and Headwear sets the performance criteria for high-visibility apparel. This safety apparel consists of background material, retroreflective material, and combined-performance material:

This garment is one of the most popular options CITY provides, from Workwear Outfiters.

Background material is “colored fluorescent material intended to be highly conspicuous, but not intended to comply with the requirements…for retro-reflective material.”


Retroflective material is “material that reflects and returns a relatively high proportion of light in a direction close to the direction from which it came.”


Combined-performance material is “retroreflective material that is also a florescent material and can be counted toward the minimum area requirements for background material.”



Why Choose CITY Hi Vis

While the availability of high visibility clothing has increased in recent years, it’s never as simple as ordering any random garments online marked “hi vis.” Each use case has specific requirements, and different colors work better in different settings. It’s also imperative that garments fit properly, allowing freedom of movement.


Andrew Scherz writes in Safety and Health Magazine, “When working in confined spaces or high-risk environments, loose or poor-fitting clothing can snag and potentially trip up and injure workers. Also, discomfort caused by tight or baggy reflective gear can impair performance and range of motion, putting workers at risk of injury. In addition, a one-size-fits-all approach can be problematic. Workers may try to compensate for poor fit by wearing other clothes that are too tight, bulky, or not appropriate for climate conditions. The result can be a breach of safety standards and a heightened risk of injury.”


CITY’s experts can make sure your employees are properly fitted and that you are choosing the best color items and best fabrics so your employees can stay comfortable and safe at work.


The general guidance for hi-vis apparel is to replace it after 25 washes, before the quality of the visibility. With CITY’s UHF chip technology, we are able to easily track the number of washes a garment has undergone, and replace it before its quality is compromised. There are often specific washing instructions for high visibility clothing to prolong their effectiveness. A uniform rental service eliminates the guesswork. CITY does all the research on every garment we supply, to make sure you receive a properly cared for garment, which saves you valuable time and money.


“Cost really matters, but it only matters after the risks are taken care of,” said Colin Wetlaufer, President of CITY.


Make sure you invest in the safety of your employees with high quality hi vis garments from CITY.


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