A high visibility vest is a safety garment worn by workers in dangerous environments for easy visual detection by others to avoid accidents.
These vests are made with light fluorescent fabric in bright colors, with wide reflective stripes prominently running over it. To understand better as to what a high visibility vest is, we need to consider the work environment where they are used.
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Where Are High-Visibility Vests Used?
Traffic police, cyclists and motorcyclists are often found to be sporting high visibility vests when weather conditions are limited.
Workers at airports, ports, dockyards, shipyards, hangers, search and rescue, fire services, emergency, and utility services also use high visibility vests to enhance safety.
How Do High-Visibility Vests Work?
High visibility vests sport bright colors such as green, orange, yellow, light yellow or red, which can be easily discerned even in a dim-lit background. Usually, these vests also have reflective stripes.
High visibility vests make use of the conspicuity factor. This means that people wearing these vests attract the attention of other people working in the vicinity even if these people are not trying to spot the wearer. This helps in avoiding accidents involving the person wearing the high visibility vest who is thus easily seen by others.
How is High Visibility Achieved?
A higher degree of visibility of these vests is achieved through the colors of the fabric used to make them. The colors are further accentuated with the use of appropriate reflective and fluorescent fabrics. Colors that have the highest visibility are orange and yellow.
To ensure that these flourescent colors look more prominent, manufacturers them next to green dark, black or navy blue. Contrasting colors will work well enough for high visibility vests in the daytime.
However, during the night, the fluorescent background of the high visibility vest needs to be complemented with reflective material.
When Should You Replace the Old One?
Depending on how often you have been using your high visibility vests, you can replace them in 6 months to 3 years.
If it is still visible from a distance of 300 meters, it can continue to be used. Further, if you have used the vest rarely and maintained it well, you can use it up to 3 years.
Both fluorescent and reflective materials have a tendency to get dirty. When they are dirty, they don’t reflect the light efficiently. Therefore, you may be able to extend a vest’s useful life by gently washing away any stains or grime.
International Standards for High-Visibility Vests
In every country, the government makes it mandatory to use high visibility vests for certain types of workers.
For the vests to maintain high enough standards of design and manufacturing details, the international body of safety clothing has prescribed the basic requirements under ISO 20471:2013 (en).
Similarly, the U.S. and European countries have their own standards for high visibility clothing.
High-Visibility Vests Are Important
High-visibility vests are an important safety measure for a lot of workers. They help workers engaged in accident-prone industrial and service jobs avoid getting hit by vehicles and moving equipment. These vests help the wearer become more visible to others and thereby avoid accidents.
Governments across the world, as well as some international organizations, have prescribed the minimum quality standards for these vests to maintain. As these vests are supposed to avoid accidents that could be life-threatening, all workers and businesses concerned should take proactive initiatives to use them.
Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree in Economics from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use.