We’re now into the cycling season and I’m sure hi-vis is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
Despite popular belief there are variations in the definition of what constitutes ‘High visibility.’ Logically, one would think that if there were one group of people that required high visibility then it would be cyclists.
While there are a large number of manufacturers that produce hi-vis wear for cyclists the number of cyclists that choose to wear them is not as many as you may think. As with any activity where a choice is available to those taking part, a great many cyclists do not like the look of hi-vis clothing.
Although according to Rule 59 of The Highway Code (D.o.T. 1/11/2015) cyclists should wear
So while hi-vis wear is not (technically) mandatory it is advised to be used.
One manufacturer has even developed a system where the reflective strips on the jacket are almost unnoticeable until a strong light is shone onto them.
At first glance it would be hard to imagine how a black jacket could fall under the banner of ‘reflective.’ The company has developed a reflective material that in ‘normal’ lighting conditions is barely noticeable. A fact that makes many cyclists, including this writer extremely happy.
From the individual’s point of view there is a certain stigma connected to the hi-vis clothing and the ‘usual’ wearer.
While the logic of hi-vis wear is easy to understand, indeed it is a logical garment to wear, the stereotypical wearer is perceived as being old fashioned and somewhat miserable.
In a great many cases this perception is about as wrong as it is possible to be. The problem arises because that state is how touring cyclists used to be. Twenty years ago, as the cycle trade began its first comeback, many new riders made it clear when buying their new ride that they did not want to be mistaken for one of those ‘Old Farts.’ So the dislike of hi-vis cycle wear began.
With the improvement of LED lighting technology combined with the advances in battery manufacture and USB charging it could be argued that hi-vis wear is no longer such an important piece of equipment for the modern day cyclist.
And yet, as seen in the extract from the Highway Code above, hi-vis apparel is still recommended for all cyclists. As for me, my backpack has Scotchlite panels and the array of lights fitted to my helmet and bike are bright enough to let everyone know I’m there.
Although the lights on my wheels are hypnotic…Cycling, General, hi-vis
To the average person one piece of hi-vis clothing is much the same as any other. What they do not realise is the strict requirements that this type of apparel has to conform to. All most people tend to notice are the colour and generalised design, while the wearer probably does not consider it all.
The main purpose of hi-vis wear is to make the wearer “ . . .capable of visually signalling the user’s presence.” It is designed and made to make the wearer conspicuous in any light conditions to operators of any kind of vehicle during daylight hours and in darkness when headlights are in use.
Any item of hi-vis wear that carries CE markings and approval has to conform to some very strict standards. Not least of these are: –
These garments are not made to with any form of power source to make them light up or have any means of producing light. They are designed and made to reflect any available light in order to make them easy to see in virtually any light conditions.
They must, however conform to quite definitive standards as set out in EN ISO 20471:2013.
This standard is reviewed every five years and updated as required. As with all forms of technology, as new materials are developed they are tested to see whether they are appropriate for use and granted authorisation as applicable. It is thanks to this regular review process that modern hi-vis wear is more comfortable and easier to maintain than older apparel.
Materials that are used for the manufacture of hi-vis wear undergo rigorous testing that measures a variety of elements. These include; burst testing, tear resistance and reflectivity. Depending on the intended application of the material it can also be tested for rainfall performance, UV exposure and even how well it washes.
The above diagram illustrates how two Class 2 garments can be combined to make a Class 3 ensemble. Class 3 being the highest level as it provides the greatest degree of conspicuity.
While under certain circumstances a single Class 2 garment may be considered sufficiently visible, it is advised that Class 3 ensembles are (in general) worn where the risk of vehicle impact is more likely.
Although many height safety harnesses are now available in hi-vis colours, they are excluded from EN ISO 20471:2013 as they cannot provide adequate coverage of the torso with fluorescent material.hi-vis
When people that do not use hi-vis are asked what they know on the subject then answers like, “It’s just for people that work on site” or “Isn’t it just so people see the bin man?” tend to become fairly regular answers.
It would probably surprise them to learn about the rigorous testing and the materials go through and the legal requirements that individual garments have to pass in order to meet current industry standards.
If you really wanted to create confusion then the question of whether they knew there was a difference between summer and winter garments, excluding waterproofs, would possibly result in the statement, “Well I don’t need it so who cares?”
People tend to forget that there are men and women out working in all conditions where hi-vis clothing is a legal requirement of their job. In the UK, winter begins on the last Sunday in October and does not officially end until the last Sunday in March. But even that time frame doesn’t take into account the shortening days as summer comes to a close, or even take into account days where visibility is low because of adverse weather conditions.
In winter hi-vis work wear also needs to provide the wearer with more than just the ability to be easily noticed. In many cases being waterproof is an expected feature, living in Britain even some of the summer-wear is usually waterproof, so having a warm lining or thermal layer can be a primary concern.
Then the actual need of the wearer needs to be considered. Providing lightweight cotton trousers and vest would be ludicrous if the user is working on a rail track in the middle of winter.
A simple, yet with hindsight obvious solution is to ask the teams that will be using the PPE what they need and supply the correct garments as required. Similarly there would be little point in providing a fully lined winter suit to a building inspector when they may spend more time inside a building than out.
Another issue that should be identified is how easy the garments are to clean. If they require specialist cleaning then they are not going to be suitable for use in an environment where there is a risk of becoming covered in dirt every day,
Teams working alongside busy roads are exposed to rapid climate changes and have the disadvantage of a constant stream of traffic expelling exhaust fumes as they pass by.
A simple example of how rapidly an item can become discoloured is the simple hi-vis vest worn by a cyclist. After one week commuting as little as twenty miles per week a hi-vis vest is more dirt than colour. So imagine how quickly a roadside workers clothing will deteriorate.
Winter work wear needs to be easy to clean while providing sufficient protection from the elements, otherwise a day at work would some become a long dark period of discomfort with the risk of severe injury.General, hi-vis, Winter