In the UK we started seeing high visibility clothing back in the mid sixties when it was first used for railway workers for Scottish railway workers. It then became associated with many types of hazardous work environments, including the emergency services as well as road maintenance and the construction industry where it is imperative to be seen in all kinds of conditions. Consequently high visibility clothing has become a symbol of authority as well as for situations requiring extreme caution.
Now it’s use has developed so much we see it everywhere we go. We see different items of high visibility clothing used by warehouse staff, car parking staff, event marshals to name just a few. In fact it seems to give its wearers an air of officialdom, whereby people will react to orders from individuals clad in high visibility gear.
In the UK the Health and Safety at Work Act requires that everyone working in dimly lit or adverse weather conditions has to wear hi vis clothing, and this is also the subject of European regulations, one of which is EN741, 2003 governing the standards needed for professional hi visibility wear. So employers are obliged to ensure that their workers are correctly kitted out in appropriate hi-vis wear to ensure they are easily seen and protected as per the 1992 Personal Protective Equipment At Work regulations. These rules and regulations have ensured that the demand for high visibility clothing has spiralled, however the UK is not so highly regulated as France where motorists are required to keep high visibility clothing in their vehicles in case of a breakdown, and cyclists are compelled to wear it in some form at night.
There is no doubt that the use of hi-vis clothing and accessories has reduced accidents and saved lives and has a positive impact on making the work of thousands of people much safer.
Therefore it is just as well that that this synthetic and brightly coloured clothing is relatively cheap, affordable yet effective. Mass produced and easily available from an assortment of retails outlets nationwide this once specialist form of clothing has now become a necessity for anyone out and about in the dark, take for example children walking to and from school in the winter. protective parents now have them kitted out in high visibility vests and reflective bands. Cyclists and motor cyclists are continually being encouraged to 'wear something bright at night'.
It may not be the height of fashion, it wasn't designed to be flattering but its effectiveness at keeping its wearers safe means that it will always be popular. But efforts are being made to make it more attractive to some, high visibility clothing is now available in pink for the ladies and as well as the standard yellow we all know so well it comes in orange, blue and green. A range of different styles of vests, jackets and trousers are also available.
We may be a country that is health and safety obsessed and totally risk adverse, but who can deny the role that high visibility clothing plays in keeping us safe!