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Hi-Vis Standards Explained

Only certified hi-vis is sufficient in high risk situations

When deciding which clothing to use for a particular task, it's important to select a garment that provides workers with the appropriate protection as demonstrated by the relevant European (EN) or British (BS) standard. Each standard specifies how clothing designed to protect against particular types of hazards should be tested, classified and labelled so they are fit for purpose.

We stay informed and are up to date with current regulations and our hi-vis garments have been tested and approved to meet relevant standards, so you can rest assured you’re in safe hands.

Which Standards are Relevant to Hi-Vis Clothing?

Depending upon their intended use, hi-vis clothing may have been designed and tested to comply with one or more of the following standards.

  • EN 13688
    Protective clothing - General requirements
  • EN 20471
    High-Visibility Clothing - Test methods and requirements
  • RIS-3279-TOM
    High Visibility Clothing Railway Industry Standard

Note that national standards are reviewed and updated on an agreed timetable, but additional minor amendments are also published to correct errors or for clarification purposes. Please refer to the British Standards Institution (BSI) website for the latest versions.

How Do I Know which Tests a Garment has Passed?

As well as detailing how testing should be completed, each standard also states what marking needs to feature on clothing to help users easily identify the type and level of protection it offers. All hi-vis garments are also provided with user instructions which detail the level of protection they provide and how they should be cared for.

EN standards are an essential tool in selecting clothing, as they help users understand their protective qualities. However, test results are obtained in laboratory conditions, so they do not always replicate real-life working conditions. We recommend that practical trials are carried out in your workplace, to assess which garments perform best in each specific situation.

Fabric is tested for durability by abrasion resistance lab equipment which rubs swatches on grit paper

EN 13688:2013 Protective Clothing - General Requirements

These general requirements cover all protective clothing, ensuring that sizing, washing and labelling are of a sufficient standard for the normal tasks that its intended for.

  • Sizing needs to use typical body dimensions, so that clothing fits and accommodates movement
  • Clothing design needs to be ergonomic, so that it fits well, is comfortable and not too heavy
  • Washing and care instructions need to indicate whether a garment is for single use only, or after how many washes it should be discarded after, based on testing
  • So that clothing doesn't adversely affect the health of wearers, restricted or banned substances mustn't be present in hazardous quantities

All protective clothing needs to give clear information on labels and accompanying leaflets. You should therefore find instructions on how to wear clothing so that it provides the protection that workers need.

A swatch of orange hi-vis fabric is being loaded into a cage to test for banned carcinogenic azo dyes

EN 20471:2013 High Visibility Clothing Test Methods and Requirements

This standard details the requirements for high visibility clothing designed to increase the visibility of wearers, and so attract attention to them in hazardous situations. It ensures wearers can be seen against various backgrounds, in any light conditions and by headlights in the dark.

EN 20471 symbol used on hi-vis clothing to show it meets this standard

This standard superseded EN 471 in 2013. Clothing that meets this standard displays a hi-vis vest symbol. The number next to the shield is the garment class.

Three classes of garment are defined in the standard. To achieve a particular class rating the following amount of material needs to be visible in the smallest sized hi-vis garment (excluding any labels or logos).

Class 3
The highest level of conspicuity
Class 2
Intermediate protection
Class 1
Low level protection
Minimum fluorescent material 0.80 m2 0.50 m2 0.14 m2
Minimum retro-reflective material 0.20 m2 0.13 m2 0.10 m2

In addition to the strict rules on the amount of fluorescent material and retro-reflective tape used to keep wearers visible there are various other requirements that must be met before garments are certified.

Design Requirements
Drawing of vests with different hi-vis tape designs that all meet EN 20471

Hi-vis clothing must follow detailed rules for the overall design and positions and width of the retro-reflective tape.

  • The standard recommends specific designs for the arrangement of retroreflective tape, but manufacturers do still have some freedom. For example, two horizontal bands are within the design rules and so is one horizontal band with an over the shoulder band
  • Additional bands of tape can be used to achieve the minimum area needed to achieve a particular class level
  • A garment can only be certified as Class 3 if it covers the torso and has either sleeves or full-length trouser legs with retroreflective bands
  • To ensure clothing is visible from all sides, materials have to completely encircle the body
  • The rules vary for different types of hi-vis clothing. For example, there must be bands of retro-reflective tape on sleeves of short-sleeved garments if they obscure the torso bands
Retro-Reflectivity of Tape
Close-up of a hi-vis jacket being examined

Retro-reflective tape needs to reflect minimum proportions of light, when shone and viewed at different angles. A photo-goniometer is used to test the amount of light reflected back. To meet the standard the test is also done with wet tape to mimic its performance in rain.

To check the wash resistance of retroreflective tape, clothing is washed and dried at least 5 times according to its instructions, or more if the clothing claims a higher number of washes are possible. Tests are also done after rubbing, flexing, folding, washing and subjected different temperatures to ensure it is sufficiently robust.

Chromaticity and Luminance of Background Fluorescent Material
A spectrophometer is used to measure chromacity of a hi-vis vest to check it’s one of the allowed colours

To ensure hi-visibility clothing is conspicuous, a spectrophotometer is used to test the background fabric to ensure it is sufficiently bright (luminance) and meets specific colour requirements (chromaticity). Chromaticity is measured using colour coordinate values, to ensure the material is one of three that can be used for EN 20471 certified garments: yellow, orange-red or red.

Aging of Background Fluorescent Material
Row of industrial washing machines washing hi-vis clothing to check its washability

Fluorescent material must continue to meet these colour requirements over time:

  • To check wash resistance, clothing is washed and dried according to its instructions, at least 5 times, or more if the hi-vis claims a higher number of washes are possible. Colour is then re-assessed to ensure the material retains its chromaticity and luminance properties
  • A crock meter is used to verify colour isn't transferred from the background material onto a test fabric when it is rubbed
  • The effects of 'sweat' solutions on the colour fastness of hi-vis fabric are assessed (by checking against untested fabric and cross-staining onto various fabric swatches)
Resilience of Background Fluorescent Material

Fluorescent material is tested mechanically (for its tensile, tear and bursting strength) to ensure its sufficiently robust to withstand tough, working environments.

Garments are also measured at specific points before and after washing, to ensure they don’t shrink or stretch. This checks they will retain their structural integrity over a reasonable service life.

RIS-3279-TOM High Visibility Clothing Railway Industry Standard

The essential requirements for high visibility clothing are described in EN 20471, however the railway industry has specific requirements as detailed in RIS-3279-TOM. This Rail Industry Standard ensures clothing keeps workers highly visible when working lineside. It is published in the UK by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) and replaces the GORT3279 National Safety Rule.

Clothing that meets this standard quotes, "RIS-3279-TOM" on the label.

  • Clothing must meet at least Class 2 of EN 20471 for the minimum material used within a garment
  • Only a specific orange background fabric can be used to make sure train drivers don't confuse workers near the tracks with yellow signals
  • Both the fluorescent material and the retro-reflective tape must meet quality standards
  • The only permitted features are the name and logo of the employing company and the titles or designations associated with incident management:
    • Rail Incident Officer (RIO)
    • First Aider
    • Recovery Engineer
    • Press Officer
    • Train Operators' Liaison Officer (TOLO)
Two people wearing orange hi-vis walking along railway tracks with a train in the background

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We sell a wide range of hi-vis clothing to suit all budgets and applications to ensure your employees can always be seen. We have it all, from premium quality GORE-TEX® to Arco Essentials; from waterproof jackets to polo shirts; flame resistant yellow hi-vis to railway approved orange hi-vis, for both women and men, plus branding options and a bespoke design service.

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