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…
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.
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.
Falls that occur while working at heights are still among the biggest causes of major injuries and fatalities. Some of the common cases include falls through fragile surfaces (such as roofs) and ladders. Thousands of workers suffer mild to major injuries from falls related to working at heights. Unfortunately, loss of life has also become a common occurrence. If you are the type of person who works at height or know someone who does, the need to ensure safety is guaranteed.
There are many ways through which safety can be assured while working at heights. They range from proper planning and inspection of the job site to the wearing of appropriate and properly functioning personal protective equipment. One of the most recommended types of PPE is the full body harness. Unfortunately, a lot of construction workers or people who work at heights don’t usually see the importance of wearing a full body harness. The importance of doing so only occurs to them after they have suffered a fall – and are lucky enough to live and narrate their story.
A safety harness is a crucial component of the personal fall arrest systems. It plays the important role of keeping users suspended upright in case of a fall. It also supports them as they await rescue. The full body safety harness is highly recommended in fall restraint systems that prevent employees from reaching points where falls are probable. The use of body belts as a safety harness is discouraged most of the time. This is mainly because the fall forces are usually concentrated on the abdomen. On the other hand, a full body harness distributes these forces throughout the body, and this has the advantage of minimising the chances of injuries by significant margins.
While having a safety is a magnificent idea, it will only be useful if it’s worn correctly. Use the following tips to ensure proper use of your safety harness.
When on site it seems as though almost everything that can be worn has a PPE equivalent. In a way that makes sense, about the only garment that does not seem to have an EN rating is boxer shorts.
There are a multitude of reasons why so much of what can be worn is listed as Workwear, but the fact is that when you are at work it makes sense to dress appropriately.
It is even possible to have waterproof socks in case the water level happens to be a fraction too high for your boots.
But is it all really worth it?
Yes, of course it is.
The idea of safety clothing is to keep you protected in the workplace and it helps if what you are wearing is as comfortable as possible. It is true that high-vis clothing may never be seen on the catwalks of Pairs or in London fashion week, although it is not unlikely that at some point some designer will choose to include something one day.
However, until that day arrives it is safe to assume that there will always be a truly practical purpose for the rules and regulations that govern what should be worn in any potentially hazardous environment.
It also saves the wearer from the arduous task of trying to decide what to put on every morning and you can keep your ‘normal’ clothes for when you are at home. In a backwards sort of way it is financially more sensible to have to wear site specific clothing as it tends to be harder wearing than any other clothes.
Some companies even have their logo printed, or embroidered, onto the apparel in order to promote their business and make the wearer feel a part of the ‘family.’
All in all life is just a little bit easier when the effort of getting dressed in the morning is reduced to wondering whether or not to wear a waterproof.
That said we are in the UK . . .
It is not very often that fires occur on-site but they can happen. In some jobs the risk of fire is so great that it is important to wear flame, or even fire retardant clothing.
But if both types of clothing are designed to protect the wearer from fire then surely they are pretty much the same thing?
Well, no they are actually very different materials.
If an item is classified as being ‘Flame Resistant’ then it has been produced from materials that are non-flammable. These materials have flame resistance chemically built in to their structure. Fabrics using this type of material are not usually made from completely flame proof material, they need to be wearable after all, but although they will eventually start to burn they will only do so very slowly and are liable to be self-extinguishing.
Any fabric that has been classified as ‘Flame Retardant’ will have been treated in a chemical process in order to make it slow burning and even self-extinguishing if exposed to open flame.
In terms of clothing, it is more likely that the wearer will have a product that is flame retardant as they are simpler to manufacture and far less expensive. They are usually far more comfortable to wear next to the skin than a fabric that is flame resistant.
Many garments of the flame retardant type are made form a combination of materials. More often than not they will be a combination of chemically treated polyester and cotton that allow the wearer to remain reasonably comfortable throughout the working day.
Sometimes it is wise to have a garment that is anti-static as well as flame retardant as the clothing itself helps to reduce the risk of unexpected fires. It may sound unlikely but if the air/accelerant mix is just right then a simple static charge has the potential to cause an explosion.
Better to be safe wearing the right clothing than running the risk of getting burnt.
Depending upon the environment that you are working in it is sometimes necessary to wear safety footwear.
Some sites do not require a full steel-toed boot but may have sufficient hazards to warrant something with a penetration resistant mid-sole and a composite toecap. The advantage of any safety footwear that uses a composite toecap is a reduction in the overall weight of the item.
Safety shoes and trainers are the ideal choice for this type of workspace as they are both lighter weight and, in general terms more aesthetically pleasing.
That is not to say that they would be everybody’s choice as there are a large number of people that prefer having the protection that both ankle and ‘Rigger’ boots provide. Although wearing a pair of ‘Riggers’ could be considered inappropriate in some environments.
The biggest advantage that ‘Riggers’ have is the ease of fitting and removal. If you keep a pair long enough they could quite literally become armoured slippers. This type of boot earned its name, as they were standard issue safety footwear for workers on off shore oilrigs in the North Sea.
As mentioned above, there are those that prefer the fit of an ankle boot. For some it comes from having the increased support that the lacing and closer fit provides. For those that find that they suffer from cold feet they also offer more warmth that even a fully lined ‘Rigger.’
They also offer a degree of practicality that ‘Riggers’ cannot. Because of the way in which ankle boots support the foot they are better suited to larger sites where it can be required to walk a great deal further, there are a variety of manufacturers that provide hiking style safety boots that provide improved traction, support as well as mid-sole protection and either steel or composite toecaps.
For an extended period of time it was always assumed that any kind of base layer that was being worn was in some way a thermal layer.
People used to think that it was strange to be wearing a thermal shirt in the middle of summer.
But the fact of the matter is that some base layers are designed and made to help keep the wearer, if not completely cool then certainly drier than a cotton T-shirt can.
The problem with a cotton shirt is that while it may let air through, it also holds on to any moisture that it comes into contact with. This can become uncomfortable on a warm day and if the wearer is still in the garment as the temperature drops then they can become chilled very quickly.
So the next time you see someone wearing a ‘thermal’ base layer on a hot summers day, it might be safe to assume that they are actually very comfortable in what they are wearing.
But thermal base layers are still very much in existence. When it gets cold there is a huge range of products that are produced to keep the wearer comfortable when worn as a layer to help keep you warm.
Old-fashioned ‘Long-Johns’ have come a very long way from being the items of ridicule that they once were. Thanks to the advances made in the production of fabrics, it is now remain comfortable at temperatures as low as -25ºC. Although being that warm they might just be a little too warm to be used as pyjamas!
Depending on the role you play on site there is an appropriate base layer to help keep you warm, even on the coldest of days. Combined with the right mid layers and required high-vis outer layer there is no reason to be uncomfortable during your time on site.
Sometimes a job is started and before anybody realises what is happening there is a layer of dust over everyone and everything. But on closer inspection it soon becomes apparent that buying coveralls for every member of the site time will take longer than that phase of the job.
There is, however, a simple solution; disposable boiler suits.
Not the most attractive garment but for a ‘use it and bin it’ garment they do not need to be.
While not intended for use in an environment where there are hazardous dusts they are certainly good enough to protect the wearer from general airborne particles.
If the whole box of ten does not get used then they are always useful to have on site if a visitor arrives in less than appropriate apparel, one of these will certainly ensure that they do not get too dirty while visiting the site.
Available in either blue or white and in a range of sizes, although whatever you get someone will always claim that it is too big, too small, not long enough in the body etc. For single use apparel they are certainly up to the task and the zip up front is likely to stop most particles from getting in.
Having the zip run to the top of the collar should also help keep the wearers clothing protected as long as it has been done up properly.
The white version of these boiler suits is more suitable to decorating jobs or those where an element of hygiene is required. That said there is no reason that white cannot be worn on any site, although it may look very dirty very quickly if worn on an excavation site.
So you get to the site and put on your high-vis jacket as per regulations, pull your toe-‘tectors on and you are ready for another day on site.
But are you really defending yourself against all possibilities?
Despite all of the HSE regulations about PPE the only real way to be absolutely safe on site is to never leave the office. There is a problem with that idea though; the boss is unlikely to pay you to sit around while there is work to be done.
In some situations hard hats are not deemed to be a necessity but there are jobs that will require hearing protection. Sure, you can purchase a helmet with ear defenders pre-installed but as noted above you do not always need to be wearing a helmet and as such a good pair of ear defenders are worth the money.
The great thing about ear defenders is that they are so much more affordable than a pair of headphones to listen to music. The problem that could potentially arise is when do you know you have gone a bit too far to protect your hearing?
A pair of ear defenders will obviously provide a great deal more protection throughout the working day from noisy machinery, as will a pair of disposable earplugs, but if using either is adequate then why not combine their abilities to further protect your hearing?
The answer to that is one of common sense.
Yes, you will shut out virtually all noise but in doing so you may very well be putting yourself at risk of being unable to hear verbal warnings, or even the approach of a vehicle.
Protecting your hearing is important but not at the cost of creating the increased chance of an accident because you are unable to hear it coming.