Are there standards for reflective gear? Are there any specific requirements regarding high visibility reflective gear?
Day/night garments must comply with Australian standards:
- AS/NZ 4602.1: 2011 High visibility safety garments - Garments for high risk applications
- AS/NZ 1906.4: 2010 Retroreflective materials and devices for road traffic control purposes - High visibility materials for safety garments. (plus Amendment 1; 2014)
- AS/NZS 4602.2:2013 High visibility safety garments - Garments for fire service personnel
The first standard specifies the visual requirements for high-visibility safety garments and covers garments suitable for daytime and night-time wear, or for wear under both conditions. 'Class D' garments are only effective for the daytime, but are ineffective for use at night/dusk/dawn. At these times 'Class N' garments are the most appropriate and effective.
The standard also has requirements for colours: for 'normal' conditions colours are either red-orange or yellow. Where there is need for a clear distinction in certain industries or situations, then it refers to a distinction between the red and orange. The standard also allows that if safety requirements in a particular industry require a garment to be made from a background material that is not capable of taking a fluorescent pigment, eg certain natural fibres, a non-fluorescent colour (but must be Class NF) may be used. The second standard has requirements with regard to colours, the fluorescent materials and the retroreflective strips.
Note that the ONLY colours in the standard are:
- Yellow (restricted)
The main thing to check when purchasing any high visibility clothing, is that it complies with the Australian Standards, AND that the clothing is appropriate according to WHEN it is being used. After purchase, the employer and worker both need to ensure that the garments are used safely. The standard has the following recommendations:
- having procedures in place to ensure items are worn correctly and that workers understand why garments will be ineffective if not worn correctly and at the appropriate time;
- storing garments so that fading of fluorescent material and degradation of retroreflective material due to heat are limited;
- keeping garments clean by washing/cleaning according to manufacturer's instructions; and
- added in 2016, inspecting the garments on a regular basis and replacing them if badly damaged, soiled or faded. "In constant use, garments should be critically examined at 3-month to 6-month intervals."
The other thing to be aware of, which was brought to our attention by the manufacturer of high quality hiviz tape is that the current standard states that workwear must comply on the date of issue, but follow up checks are at the discretion of management. Most manufacturers in Australia use reflective tape which is good for only 30 washes due to its low cost, Management tends to purchase these lower cost shirts so the garments are not compliant and less safe in the second half of their shirt's year. Some manufacturers produce much higher quality tape, which then translates to, for example, three shirts being washed 100 times being needed.
The table below shows how many taped shirts in a yearly issue are needed (according to this manufacturer) to comply to AS/NZS 1906.4:2010 part 4.
|AS/NZS Compliant tape||30 wash cycles||50 wash cycles|
|Number of shirts needed||8||5|
Note that these standards cover only the visual requirements of garments. They do not cover their physical integrity or fitness for use in adverse physical environments. There is at least one standard which has recommendations for protective clothing in adverse environments:
AS/NZS ISO 2801:2008 Clothing for protection against heat and flame - General recommendations for selection, care and use of protective clothing
In a 2009 edition of UK's Risks, there was an item on fake high visibility gear being sold in Britain. Risks revealed that a report in Health and Safety Bulletin (HSB) found many retailers have been selling fake or poor standard high-visibility clothing that, in the worst case, offered just over 1 per cent of the reflection required under the European Standard. There are similarly 'shonky' suppliers in Australia, so make sure your employer hasn't inadvertently purchased fake and unsafe gear.
WorkSafe has produced guidance material which provides information on the selection and use of high visibility clothing for workers operating on or near roads: High-visibility clothing near traffic. (December 2011)
Last amended June 2018