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High Visibility Is To Prevent Accidents Not Make Fashion Statements!

17th December 2013
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 requires that correct clothing selected for a particular task should be suitable for the job, the risk, and compatible with other forms of PPE standards.

Accident claims for injury compensation against employers who fail to supply essential items, such as the correct type of gloves, face masks, eye protection or ear defenders can still take place, irrespective of the standard requirement for ‘hard hat’, steel capped boots and Hi-Vis clothing.

Hi-Vis, or high visibility clothing has become ubiquitous in recent years. They’re not only seen in their rightful context being worn by emergency services, railtrack workers, two wheeled commuters, building site contractors and warehouse staff, for example, but also they’re fast becoming fashion statements, even worn in offices and other similar unlikely environments.

Their presence where they may not strictly be necessary might serve to create a false sense that safety compliance is seen to be in place. It may even be a short-cut substitute for attending to real accident prevention issues long overdue for attention, e.g. an employee wearing a hi-vis tabard (sleeveless top /vest) or jacket working at a machine without a fully functional safety guard or operating a forklift incorrectly.

Another problem that can arise from mass adoption of wearing Hi–Vis clothing in all manner of unlikely workplaces or situations is the creation of confusion and the reduction of its essential purpose to draw attention to the wearer’s presence and, thus, prevent an accident from taking place in a normally high-risk location or circumstance.

According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), employers must:

• Provide any Hi-Vis clothing needed for the job, free of charge, to any employees who may be exposed to significant safety risks.
• Maintain Hi-Vis clothing in a clean state, in good working order and should be checked before being issued to employees.
• Provide storage facilities for clothing when not in use.
• Provide adequate information, instruction and training to enable employees to use Hi-Vis clothing correctly. This should include an explanation of the risks, why the clothing is needed, how and when it should be worn.
• Supervise employees to ensure that they wear the clothing correctly, and whenever it is needed.

HSE stipulate that employees should:

• Wear the Hi-Vis clothing provided as instructed by an employer.
• Look after clothing issued, check for and report any damage or defects to an employer.
• Use the storage facilities provided when the clothing is not in use.

High Visibility clothing should be manufactured to the recognised new British Standard, BS EN 471, for high visibility warning clothing. Damaged or ill-fitting clothing will not provide proper protection.