High visibility clothing regulations

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 require many factors to be taken into account to ensure that the correct clothing is chosen for a particular task.


  1. Overview
  2. Employers responsibility
  3. Employee responsibility
  4. EN ISO 20471?
  5. Care and Maintenance

  1. Is high visibility suitable for the risk?
    Choice of clothing should take into account ambient and artificial lighting conditions at the workplace, and the effect of conditions such as fog and snow.
    For some jobs an high visibility waistcoat may be all that is needed, but those workers who are particularly at risk from moving vehicles, may need full body High Visibility clothing so that they are as visible as possible to the driver. High visibility clothing should provide adequate protection both during the day and at night, as well as in adverse weather. As a rule: the darker the conditions or worksite, the greater the amount of high visibility clothing required.

    To be effective High visibility clothing should be of a colour that will allow the wearer to stand out against the ambient background found in the working environment. In practice the best colours for this purpose are likely to be day-glo, or fluorescent yellow. Where necessary the clothing should also incorporate retroreflective material to make the wearer visible when seen in headlights in poor lighting conditions or during darkness. This may require reflective strips at or below waist level on waistcoats or jackets, or strips on trousers.
  1. Is high visibility clothing suitable for the job?
    People working in warehouses may find that some types of loose fitting tabard may snag on moving machinery parts. Also High Visibility coats may be too warm in summer months, in which case, waistcoats or overalls with the appropriate high visibility qualities could be supplied. Remember: PPE must always be suitable for the work; if the way of working changes – check that the PPE is still suitable.
  1. Is high visibility clothing suitable for the wearer?
    High visibility clothing should be comfortable and fit the wearer properly. It should cause the minimum of restriction in the wearers movement.
  1. Is high visibility compatible with other forms of PPE?
    If two or more types of PPE are worn, they should not interfere with each other. Therefore, in the case of aircraft servicing staff for example, protective clothing for chemical spills should also provide the necessary level of conspicuity. Similarly, wet or cold weather clothing should have suitable high visibility qualities or be capable of being worn under high visibility garments.
  1. Are there any standards which the high visibility clothing should meet?
    High visibility clothing should be manufactured to a recognised standard. The British Standard for high visibility warning clothing is BS EN 20471. This is a harmonised European standard produced with the legal requirements for PPE in mind.

What is the Employers responsibility for high visibility clothing?

  1. provide any High visibility clothing needed for the job free of charge to any employees who may be exposed to significant risks to their safety;
  2. maintain High visibility clothing in a clean state and in good working order. It should be checked before being given to employees;
  3. provide storage facilities for clothing when not in use;
  4. provide adequate information, instruction and training to enable employees to use High Visibility clothing correctly. This should include an explanation of the risks, why the clothing is needed, how and when it should be worn; and
  5. supervise employees to ensure that they wear the clothing correctly and whenever it is needed.

What is the Employees responsibility for high visibility clothing?

Employees should wear the High visibility clothing provided as instructed by your employer. Look after clothing issued to you, check for and report any damage or defects to your employer. Use the storage facilities provided when the clothing is not in use. Remember: damaged or ill-fitting clothing will not protect you properly.

What is EN ISO 20471?

EN ISO 20471 is an international standard that imposes requirements on visible workwear for employees in high-risk areas. Using the right safety workwear is important and must be prioritised. EN ISO 20471 has 3 performance levels:

Class 3: Highest Level

Class 2: Intermediate Level 

Class 1: Minimum Level


Highest level of protection – required for any persons working on or near motorways, dual-carriage ways or airports. Must incorporate a minimum of 0.80m2 of background material and 0.20m2 of retro- reflective materials. (4 metres of 5cm wide reflective tape)

Examples of Class 3 HiVis items : HiVis Bomber Jackets; HiVis Parka Jackets; HiVis Long Sleeved Vests


Required for any persons working on or near A and B class roads, also for delivery drivers. Must incorporate a minimum of 0.50m2 of background material and 0.13m2 of retro-reflective material. (2.60 metres of 5cm wide reflective tape)

Examples of Class 2 HiVis items : HiVis Sleeveless Vests


Minimum level of protection required for any persons working on a private road or to be used in conjunction with a higher classed garment. Must incorporate a minimum of 0.14m2 of background material and 0.10m2 of retroreflective material. (2 metres of 5cm wide reflective tape)

Examples of Class 1 HiVis items : HiVis Trousers

It is important to note that to conform to BS EN 471 standards items must have a Yellow, or Orange, background. HiVis items of other colours will  NOT conform to UK and EU standards for High Visibility clothing.


The dirtier the HiVis garment gets, the less effective it becomes. Make sure that garments are washed regularly, or disposed of when permenatly soiled.
Do NOT allow sections to be cut off or removed – the level of protection they provide depends on the areas of fluorescent and retro-reflective materials.
Make sure that the garment is worn fastened at all times to ensure maximum protection and reduce the risk of entanglement with moving machinery.

References: www.hse.gov.uk and www.potrwest.com

High visibility workwear
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High visibility workwear

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