The Quintessential Guide to High Visibility Safety Apparel

The Quintessential Guide to High Visibility Safety Apparel

Safety on site is THE key consideration for every member of the team. Numerous hazards abound, especially where a site is near moving traffic, or when low light conditions or inclement weather affect the level of visibility. When working in a hazardous area, the wearing of high visibility safety apparel is not only essential, it is a legal requirement. At all times, workers must wear protective clothing, made to an international standard, and from high visibility material. These enhance the level of conspicuity, ensuring workers are visible at all times of the day and night and in all environmental conditions. There is a lot to be taken into account when seeking to ensure your team is appropriately kitted out for the job on hand. Daylight conditions, hazardous conditions, types of materials, design requirements, classes of safety vests, what is the legal requirement? Should you complete a risk assessment? What is the European Standard?

In this article, we want to clarify, and provide clarity around an area of protective equipment that can often confuse, and ensure we help you keep your team safe, and donned in the proper high visibility safety apparel, whatever the level of protection required.

All hi vis garments must comply with EN 20471, the European Standard regulating visible workwear for persons operating in unsafe or high risk areas. This classification is categorized in three grades, which is determined by the amount of both the reflective material and the high contrast hi vis fabric making up the garment. It is key that the distinctions of each class are properly understood, and the types of risk situations studied, so that you can be certain your team are wearing the correct clothing for the situation, ensuring maximum safety. Each certified class is appropriate for a particular working environment or risk level, but the general principle to go by is the MORE HAZARDOUS the site, the MORE VISIBILTY is required.

Below we specify what the class levels are, how they are categorised and what type of environment they are best suited to:

Class 1

This is the minimum requirement for visibility clothing and is suitable for low-risk environments where there is ample separation between workers and moving vehicles. This lowest level class typically includes garments with a minimum amount of fluorescent colours and reflective tape, such as a safety vest or t-shirt, and is often worn by car park attendants, warehouse workers, or delivery drivers.

All class 1 hi vis items are required to display a minimum of 155 square inches of reflective tape, with 0.10m² reflective material and 0.14m² fluorescent material. This excludes any labels or logos. On a hi vis vest the reflective bands should encircle the middle of the garment in a 360º stripe, and be positioned above each shoulder. A Class 1 item is often a single garment worn on its own (hi vis trousers for example).

Class 2

This is the intermediate level of protection, suitable for medium risk situations. It is suited to a heavier traffic flow area, where the speed limit is less than 40mph, and lower visibility conditions. Visibility clothing in this class commonly include jackets and sweatshirts, and are worn by construction workers, forest workers, road maintenance crews, airport workers, or school crossing guards.

Class 2 hi vis clothing must display a minimum of 201 square inches of reflective tape, comprised of 0.13m² reflective material and 0.50m² fluorescent material. Again, there should be one or two reflective stripes as a torso band, and reflective shoulder strips.

Class 3

The design requirements of this class covers the highest level of protection, where the potential hazards are the greatest. Ideal for times when there is poor visibility, and where the work is close to heavy traffic, travelling at speeds of around 50mph. The silhouette of a person should be clearly visible in the headlights of an approaching vehicle. Hi vis bomber jackets and long sleeved vests are commonly worn in this class, often by emergency responders, railway workers, utility crews and site inspectors.

Class 3 garments require a minimum of 310 square inches of reflective tape, with 0.20 m² reflective material and 0.80m² fluorescent material. It’s important for employers to assess the level of risk in their work environment and provide the appropriate class of high visibility clothing.

Rail Hi-Vis Clothing

In a class of its own, this specialist RIS-3279-TOM compliant high visibility clothing MUST be worn when working near a railway. The importance of keeping workers visible goes up another notch when operating in this type of environment.

RIS-3279-TOM (previously GO/RT 3279) is a specific standard applicable to the UK rail industry, and visibility clothing manufactured to this specification is designed to provide a clear warning to rail drivers, engineers or permanent way professionals of the presence of people near the line, or on the lineside.

The implementation by Network Rail of a “Full Orange Policy” (railway standard) ensures that the level of protection required in fully met.

As much of the railway work is undertaken in rural areas, the general yellow visibility clothing can merge dangerously with a green foliage background, while a worker fully clad in orange bright colours clearly stands out in such areas. The specific fluorescent fabrics, made to a technical specification of fluorescent orange, X:0.588, Y:0.371. with a luminance factor of at least 0.4 provides a high level of visibility in dark and hazardous conditions.

For more details about rail hi vis, please visit this post.


Clad Safety are the supplier of choice for many of the leading companies within the construction, rail and utilities.

We are the trusted industry advisors on high visibility safety apparel, protective clothing and equipment, and lead the market in the supply of sustainably manufactured, cutting edge products, providing enhancement for workers.

For comprehensive support in keeping your workforce safe through the guaranteed supply of high visibility safety apparel please get in touch with us today on 0800 161 3661 or email [email protected].