Accident-free work has a lot to do with good visibility. Especially in the dark season, poor visibility, fog, or rain on construction sites make it difficult to recognize people. Luminous and reflective warning clothing provides support. The DIN standard for high-visibility clothing (DIN EN ISO 20471) provides information on how it must be designed and what to watch out for. The trade association for the construction industry gives advice on the right high-visibility clothing to get through the winter safely and healthily.
Contrast and reflection are the two keywords for optimal visibility. The better the clothing can stand out from the background, the more striking the appearance. “Wearing dark clothes at night can have fatal consequences. People are simply swallowed up in the dark,” says Bernhard Arenz, head of the main prevention department at BG BAU. This means, for example, that road users can only recognize road users in the last few meters. Light-colored clothing can be seen from a distance of up to 40 meters, retro-reflective clothing from a distance of up to 150 meters.
In general, warning clothing should be worn wherever it is necessary to recognize people at an early stage. This is especially true when working in the area of public road traffic, on tracks, and of course for all construction sites with construction machinery or vehicle traffic. An employee can easily be overlooked, especially when, for example, wheel loaders, excavators, and cranes are used and the driver’s view is restricted. That is why the right high-visibility clothing is vital during the day.
Which high visibility clothing is right?
First of all, the hazards at the respective location must be assessed, including the volume of traffic, lighting conditions, and the expected weather during the activity. The procurement of high-visibility clothing should be determined based on the risk assessment. The decisive standard for this is DIN EN ISO 20471. This divides high-visibility clothing into three different performance classes. “The following applies: the greater the risk for employees, the higher the required class. The higher the class, the larger the fluorescent and reflective surfaces,” explains Arenz.
Class 3 warning clothing must be used for work in the dark. This means that more than 80cm² of the surface must be covered with fluorescent material, more than 20cm² with reflective material. At the same time, the reflective materials must be processed in such a way that the contour of the person can be recognized from the reflection alone. The minimum requirements of class 3 can also be achieved by clothing combinations (jacket and trousers) – but only if the high-visibility clothing covers the trunk and has at least either sleeves or long trouser legs with retro-reflective stripes.
According to DIN EN ISO 20471, fluorescent surfaces may generally be yellow, orange-red, or red. For employees in certain areas, however, there are restrictions, for example for employees in the garbage collection and road work including road winter service: “According to the administrative regulations for road traffic regulations, they are only allowed to wear fluorescent orange-red or yellow warning clothing. The guidelines for securing workplaces on roads (RSA) even only allow fluorescent orange-red,” says Arenz.
What other differences are there between the performance classes? How is the high visibility clothing properly cared for? How many and which safety vests must be ready in vehicles? The BAU Portal, the specialist magazine of BG BAU, provides a current overview and further information on the topic of high-visibility clothing in its current web magazine.