We Know Why We Use It, But Do We Really Know Much About It? The Complete Story of Hi-Vis Clothing and Why It's Essential For Every Site

When we think of a construction site, we think of workers with hard hats, steel capped boots and hi-vis clothing. It’s not only worn on construction sites, but firefighters, police officers and paramedics also wear the fluorescent uniforms at times. It’s a staple piece of clothing within a lot of industries, and for good reason. Your general citizen knows that hi-vis is worn to quite simply be more visible at your place of work. The benefits speak for themselves. However, how much do we really know about this clothing item, and the history behind it?



Why Hi-Vis is Essential

From our perspective, we know our workers are exposed to workplace hazards every single day. These hazards can very easily cause significant injuries if the necessary preparation and precautions aren’t taken. Most workplaces have a health and safety officer or plan in place, in order to keep their employees feeling safe when at work. It’s hugely important that all employees feel safe and protected while at work, and hi-vis clothing greatly contributes to that.

The use of hi-vis clothing falls under Safe Work Australia’s personal protective equipment (PPE) category. PPE refers to anything that can be used or worn to minimise the risk of injury or harm to a worker’s health and safety. An example of a potential on site hazard is the risk of driver visibility in low light. In this case, hi-vis greatly reduces the risk of harm or injury, as the driver has clear vision of any workers in the vicinity, particularly with headlights on their reflective tape. 

According to the law, all employees on site are required to be trained and understand the policies and use behind Safe Work Australia’s PPE practices. Quite simply, wearing hi-vis on site is compulsory by law. The hi-vis clothing itself has to be variations of either yellow or orange in colour.



Categories of Hi-Vis Clothing

Class D: The hi-vis clothing in this category are designed for day use only, meaning they’re ineffective in low light/dark conditions. In this category, the fluorescent fabric should cover at least 0.4m2 of the upper torso. This category of hi-vis clothing doesn’t contain any tape.

Class N: The hi-vis clothing in this category is designed for darker/low light conditions or at night. This category of hi-vis are required to have at least 50mm wide of reflective tape, in a hoop, X back or H pattern.

Class D/N: This category allows hi-vis garments to be used in both day and night conditions.

Class F: These garments are made from fluorescent fabric in variations of yellow and orange. These are designed for day use only.

Class R: These garments are made from reflective material and are designed for night use only.

Class RF: This garment is made from both fluorescent and reflective materials. Designed for both day and night use.


History of Hi-Vis Clothing 

High-visibility clothing was created by Bob Switzer in the 1930s after he was hurt unloading crates in California. The injury impacted his eyesight, which impacted his intended career of becoming a doctor. After the accident, Switzer thought of introducing something that could assist in preventing incidents like this from occurring again. This invention was intended to be a major solution to improving safety of employees on job sites, preventing unnecessary harm and injuries.

Fortunately, Bob’s brother Joe was in the business of researching fluorescent chemicals. Together, they used Joe’s knowledge of fluorescent substances and Bob’s idea of creating a safer workplace; to begin putting together prototypes for reflective materials. With their combined expertise, they invented “Day-Glo”. A fluorescent paint that made materials glow in low light conditions. The first fluorescent clothing item ever recorded was Bob’s wife’s dress, where they applied their Day-Glo formula.

Since then, their invention was used to great success on movie posters and marketing materials. However, it wasn’t until WW2 that their invention became recognised for having a considerable impact on public safety. From then, it’s evolved into the hi-vis materials we know and use today. 

At BAD Workwear, we understand that quality and practicality go hand in hand. There’s no room for error on site, that’s why we don’t skip on the quality materials that keep you safe at work. We offer a wide range of options when it comes to hi-vis clothing, including polos, singlets, jumpers, jackets, vests and shirts. Browse our options today!

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