The History of The Hi-Vis
High visibility clothing arrived in Britain over five decades ago, but it’s become synonymous with health and safety, and industrial environments. But although we expect to see construction workers and builders wearing these types of fluorescent clothing, many of us don’t realise how the hi-vis jacket came to be. The hi-vis has been familiar workwear for people in Britain since the ‘60s but this particular item of clothing was actually invented in America by Bob Switzer. The fabric paint was created in the 1930s by Switzer who was injured in a workplace accident and used his recovery period to invent a neon paint by mixing fluorescent minerals with wood varnish.
Use in World War II
After testing it on his wife’s wedding dress, he realised he had created an amazing product and it wasn’t long before he teamed up with his brother to manufacture his Day-Glo paint. The U.S. Government began to utilise the technology to make soldiers more visible and to reduce the number of deaths from friendly fire in World War II. It was also used to create fabric panels to send signals from the ground and for aircraft crewman to don fluorescent suits to direct pilots when highlights by UV lamps.
The Definition of Hi-Vis
High-visibility apparel, often shortened to just hi-vis, is defined as clothing that makes the wearer more visible and easily seen. It’s increases the visibility of workers that may be exposed to danger through hazardous environments, such as construction sites, rail or road maintenance, aircraft workers or emergency service employees. It’s become so synonymous workwear in certain industries that workers look out of place if they’re on a job site without some form of high visibility clothing. It also helps create more visibility of the individual in low light conditions, such as those working throughout the night or in poor weather conditions. Bright colours are used in hi-vis clothing to ensure that those wearing the item are as conspicuous as possible along with reflective material that is added to reflect light sources. The more dangerous the work being carried out, the more hi-vis clothing the individual is expected to wear.
A Mainstay of Hazardous Environments
Following tests in 1964 by rail maintenance workers in Glasgow, hi visibility clothing became a mainstay of acts such as the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act and the 1992 Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations. Over time, it’s become the go-to uniform for emergency service staff, road and rail maintenance workers, and those in the construction industry to keep workers safe in hazardous environments. It’s not just for staff either. Cyclists and motorcyclists often wear hi-vis jackets to make them more exposed and visible to other drivers on the road and help to reduce the risk of getting into an accident and to ensure that drivers can keep a wider distance between themselves and cyclists. Since being brought into everyday wear, hi-vis clothing has reduced fatalities and casualties, helping to keep thousands of workers safe.