Hi-Vis 101 – Everything You Need to Know



Whether you’re operating heavy equipment on a construction site or repairing a pothole on the highway, you’re bound to be exposed to potentially harmful working conditions. Wearing high-visibility (hi-vis) apparel on the job is essential to remain visible to those around you. In this article, we breakdown what hi-vis is and why it’s necessary, who should wear it, and lastly, touch on different types of hi-vis apparel – helping you decide what’s best for you!

Hi-Vis Breakdown

Hi-vis is a type of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that has highly reflective properties which help reduce the risk of worker injury or fatality by allowing motorists and equipment operators to see workers in low-light or dark environments. Our eyes respond best to large, contrasting or bright objects. Therefore, the high color contrast between hi-vis clothing and the background it’s against enhances worker visibility.

Those who work in an industry where they are in close contact with moving vehicles or machinery should be equipped with hi-vis apparel. Some inclusions are first responders, road construction workers, surveyors, and utility workers. However, workers aren’t the only ones who benefit from higher visibility. This clothing can go from workplace to weekend as non-workers, such as runners, bikers, and dog walkers could also benefit depending on their lighting conditions.

Common Hi-Vis Apparel

One of the most traditional forms of hi-vis clothing is fluorescent orange or yellow vests with reflective stripes in an ‘H’ pattern on both the front and back. The fluorescent color makes the wearer visible during the day, while the reflective stripes make it more likely that they’ll be seen at night, increasing their safety. There are many options for this type of apparel, including t-shirts, vests, long sleeve shirts, and pants.

Both fluorescent yellow and orange are known to affect conspicuity in daylight conditions positively, and using both colors together is an option when surrounded by a complex background.

Alternative Hi-Vis Apparel

Black Series

If you’re looking for hi-vis gear with a bit more style, or maybe something that hides grease and dirt better, then we suggest black hi-vis.

One of the significant benefits of black safety gear is its clean appearance. Depending on your work environment and profession, you might be in regular contact with dirt, grease, or other things that could quickly soil your clothes. With lighter colors, dirt is easily noticeable; while black, on the other hand, does an excellent job of hiding unwanted marks. This provides a cleaner, fresher look throughout the workday.

Appearance isn’t everything though. There are other benefits of black high visibility workwear that the usual fluorescent yellow and orange colors can’t compete with. If you work in an environment with an abundance of bright colors, you’ll be more visible with darker colors such as black, and therefore safer.

‘X’ Back Pattern

‘X’ back apparel is commonly used in Canada, as it is a mandatory part of the CSA standards. Although not a requirement in ANSI 107 – 2015, it is still an excellent way to ensure optimal safety in worksites where the direction the worker is facing is important due to moving vehicles. Choosing apparel with a reflective ‘X’ marking on the back, and the standard ‘H’ on the front, warns oncoming vehicles which direction the worker is facing, and therefore if they need to alert the worker. This type of apparel is mostly popular among railroad and highway workers.


Parkas and Jackets

Reflective coats and parkas provide the ultimate winter warmth without sacrificing your safety. They come in a variety of offerings from basic fleece lined to wind and waterproofing to fully insulated.

Previously, there had been no method used to determine a garments level of warmth. The American National Standard for Classification of Insulating Apparel Used in Cold Work Environments (ANSI 201 – 2012) now provides a means for a garment to be classified, based on the material’s ability to keep workers warm in low temperatures, and to retain such protection throughout its expected life.

Although ANSI 201 – 2010 provides a way to measure the warmth of a garment, this certification is exclusively for thermally insulated apparel as opposed to standard safety parkas and jackets. Therefore, it is suggested first to determine the type of activities you’ll be undertaking, and then make an informed decision on which clothing is right for your work environment. Desired warmth could subsequently be achieved through singular items or layering.

Apparel with LED Lighting

If you require extra visibility, hi-vis apparel with LED lighting is another option. Standard reflective safety gear provides high visibility only when light is directed at the reflective tape. Hi-vis vests with LED lights offer added luminescence for nighttime activities and are great for parking lot attendants, event staff, and airports.


High visibility can also be incorporated into harnesses when working at height. Reflective harnesses provide increased visibility in certain situations where there may not be enough light for other workers or machine operators on the ground to see you; for example, when working on telephone poles, in tunnels or caves, or when using boom equipment.

Hi-vis vests can also be purchased with the necessary slots to fit a safety harness, thereby eliminating the situations where the harness covers the vest or the vest interferes with the correct operation of the harness.

High visibility clothing is essential in many industries, and for good reason. Choosing the right gear for your work environment cannot only reduce injuries but can save lives. Accidents happen on work sites every day, and being correctly protected is a step in the right direction. Nowadays, hi-vis garments come in a variety of designs, catering for several job environments and conditions ensuring all workers are safe in their surroundings. Hopefully now you can make the best decision on what safety apparel is right for you.

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