You are traveling down the highway when you spot a construction crew a quarter mile away. You know it is a construction crew because you recognize the high visibility T-shirts and hardhats. They are all wearing orange, just like every other road crew you have ever seen. What you are seeing is high visibility safety apparel (HVSA) at work.
Needless to say that HVSA was developed entirely for this reason. In almost every industry in which it’s required, HVSA serves the purpose of making sure that workers wearing it can be seen by others. The importance of such clothing cannot be understated.
According to a Greek study published in January 2021, more than 40% of all occupational fatalities related to road construction work are the result of workers being struck by vehicles or heavy equipment. Across all industries requiring HVSA, struck-by accidents are the predominant killer.
High Visibility Fabric Dyes
The easiest way to achieve high visibility for workwear uniforms is to concentrate on the dyes used to color clothing. You create fabric that is easy to see because it is both brightly colored and the color itself is something not normally seen in a given environment. This is why bright orange is so common for road workers.
The key to creating a dye is understanding how color is achieved. In the case of dyes and fabrics, color is created by subtracting light. Imagine a piece of white cotton fabric. It is white because it reflects all of the visible wavelengths the human eye identifies as color. If you want that fabric to appear orange, you have to subtract all of the wavelengths except orange.
Clothing manufacturers look for dyes of a certain color – be they orange, green, pink, etc. Then they look for different tints and hues that are more easily seen. A high visibility green would be of a lighter tint and probably include a little bit of bright yellow.
Incorporating Reflective Surfaces
Some high visibility clothing doesn’t rely exclusively on color. It is also designed with highly reflective surfaces built in. For instance, imagine a bright green-yellow safety vest with reflective strips attached on front and back. The strips make the vest highly visible under bright sunshine or after the sun goes down.
Reflective strips work by reflecting both sunlight and artificial light. They are ideal for construction workers for that very reason. A high visibility vest with reflective strips does the job no matter the weather conditions. Even if it’s cloudy and raining, reflective strips are illuminated by car headlights.
Unusual Color Choices
In addition to fabric dyes and reflective strips, high visibility is also achieved by selecting unusual colors. According to Salt Lake City-based Alsco, a company offering workwear uniform rentals, bright orange and green are the two most commonly found colors in the HVSA arena. But pink is quickly catching on as well.
Pink is effective as a high visibility color because we do not expect to see it. Picture a manufacturing environment with a large production floor and a substantial warehouse area. You would expect to see people wearing blue jeans and T-shirts. You would not expect to see someone walking around in a bright pink vest while wearing a pink hardhat.
The color itself is enough to get your attention. But when it is just the right tone and designed to be highly reflective, pink becomes even more noticeable. And that’s the idea. You want high visibility workwear to stick out like a sore thumb.
HVSA is truly a lifesaver. It is so critical in some industries that it’s required by law. And now you know how it’s achieved.