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What You Need To Know About Hi-Vis Clothing

What You Need To Know About Hi-Vis Clothing

The next time you’re taking a drive, look around and notice the amount of bright clothing being worn.  Perhaps the most obvious is that worn by the workers in the roadway construction zones.  But look closer and I imagine you’ll see it other places as well.  Perhaps you’ll see a teenage girl donned with earphones, backpack and a neon pink shirt, or possibly a runner at the side of the road in a sporty neon yellow t-shirt that just happens to match exactly the accent color in his shoes.  Or, maybe it’s a couple in the car next to you, clearly on the way to the gym, the name of which is emblazoned across the chest of their matching neon green t-shirts.

It’s obvious there’s an abundance of bright, fluorescent clothing available.  To a business owner an important question to be answered is: Does it all serve the same purpose?  Does it matter what bright clothing I chose? 

Let’s answer that question by breaking down the need for fluorescent clothing into three segments: 1) you WANT to be seen, 2) you NEED to be seen or 3) you’re MANDATED to be seen.  I’ll explain the difference and also provide some helpful resources at the end of the article if you’d like even further information.

When You Want To Be Seen

Who falls into the category of wanting to be seen?  Let’s think of this category as wanting to stand out from the crowd, but not particularly for safety reasons.  As I tried to help you visualize in the opening paragraph, fluorescent, neon clothing has made a comeback and it is popping up in retail fashion everywhere.  As a company, perhaps you’d like to adopt this trend in an upcoming apparel project.  There are plenty of garments readily available in colors such as neon blue, neon pink, neon orange, neon green, neon yellow and more.

Neons are in right now and if you want a sporty, fresh look that helps your brand stand out visually, give neons a try.  They will help your message stand out quite literally. 

But, if you want your employees to be seen, not just to promote your brand, but because it could mean their safety, you move into the category of needing to be seen.

b2ap3_thumbnail_photo-5.JPGWhen You Need To Be Seen

Safety is a concern in many professions, and sometimes being safe means being seen.  These jobs could range from tree trimmers and landscapers, to road construction workers.  Certain jobs, such as those along roadways, mandate specific safety apparel be worn, and that’s what I’ll detail more below.  Other responsible business owners feel safety apparel is in their employee’s best interests, even if it’s not required by ordinance.

The American National Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel and Headwear (ANSI/ISEA 107-2010) is a standard established by the American National Standards Institute, Inc.  There is a nice reference put together by 3M that makes deciphering this standard easy, and I’ll provide a link to it at the end of the article.  The document makes this comment on safety colors:

“There are three different colors for background and combined-performance material from which to choose: fluorescent yellow-green, fluorescent orange-red and fluorescent red. Users should consider the work and natural environment to determine the most conspicuous color for daytime use.”

When High Visibility clothing is discussed, these are the acceptable colors.  Typically the names given to these colors by clothing manufacturers are Safety Orange, Safety Green or Safety Yellow.  (Safety Yellow and Safety Green are essentially the same color, but the name may differ by manufacturer.)  These colors are different from the fashionable neon color discussed earlier.  For example, Jerzees Heavyweight 50/50 poly/cotton t-shirt comes in both a Neon Green color and a Safety Green color.  If safety is your reason to stand out, make sure you use Safety colors for your garments.  b2ap3_thumbnail_SafetyCS401.jpg

When You Are Mandated To Be Seen

Professions that routinely expose employees to moving equipment or traffic, or the hazards of low visibility while on the job are required to wear specific safety apparel and equipment, often referred to as PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).  The ANSI/ISEA 107 standard is used to classify this apparel.  Regarding its history, the International Safety Equipment Association’s website notes:

“The American National Standard ANSI/ISEA 107-2010, High-Visibility Safety Apparel and Headwear is an industry consensus standard that specifies requirements for apparel and headwear that is capable of visually signaling the user's presence.  It was developed by the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) and first published in 1999.  Since then, the standard has been recognized and compliance mandated by federal, state and local authorities as well as private industry entities.  Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) requires nearly all workers in or near a highway right-of-way to wear garments that comply with the standard.” 

The standard specifies the design, colors, physical performance and care labeling of safety apparel.  ANSI/ISEA 107 apparel is categorized in three segments: Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3.  Regarding the classes 3M’s guide states:

“Three classes of high-visibility safety apparel help the user choose the proper garments for a work situation. The classes state the minimal amount of background and retroreflective material, and placement of retroreflective material needed as well as technical requirements for garment design. Garments that cover the torso, such as T-shirts and safety vests, are intended to meet Class 1 or Class 2 requirements.”

Put simply, the difference in classes is the amount of both fluourescent material and reflective material that must be visible when worn.  The higher the Class, the greater the requirement of both.  In the link to 3M’s helpful reference below, you’ll find a descriptive chart of the differences between the Classes.


In summary, if you just want to make a bold statement with your next apparel project, choose a garment available in one of the many neon colors.  However, if you are concerned about safety, make sure you use an ANSI certified safety color such as Safety Orange, or Safety Green.  And lastly, if you need garments in one of the three ANSI/ISEA 107 Classes, make sure to tell your apparel provider so they can direct you accordingly.

Here are two references that I quoted from in this article and that you may find helpful:

Click Here: 3M's ANSI MADE EASY
Click Here: ISEA's Frequently Asked Questions
Midwest Stitcher's Favorite: No Collar for The Lad...
Why Do We Wear Polos? [NY Times Article]

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