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How to stay visible at work

Posted by Cathy Houghton at

Hi vis workwear is vital pieces of clothing. 

However, when choosing between the two hi vis colours, which one should you opt for?  Yellow or orange?  And is there really a difference in the level of protection they offer? 

How to stay visible at work

When comparing safety vest colours against each other many people will view the yellow as the brighter high vis, and if we look at this colour alone, this may be true; however, more variables need to be taken into consideration. 

Factors affecting hi vis vest colours 

Operating environment 

In complex environments, people, objects, and colour can often compete against each other, so much so that it can be hard for anything or any colour to stand out from the crowd.  This is one reason why hi vis jackets become vital in making wearers conspicuous through contrast and recognition. 

Achieving detection 

Wearing fluorescent colours in dark environments or against dark backgrounds is the best way to be and remain seen.  Combining high contrast colours in one item of clothing, like the Portwest hi vis jacket that offers two-tone contrasting colours, helps create a sharper contrast that is much more noticeable, providing the wearer with a much higher level of safety. 

Recognition 

Various colours help people identify different workers, drivers, roadside staff, etc., creating strong associations and connections.  For example, orange hi vis PPE is often associated with hazards as orange is often thought to represent caution. 

Safety vest colours 

Safety vests are primarily worn by construction workers, industrial workers, chemical industry, warehouses, factories, and more. 

Safety vests are incredibly visible from afar, with the hi vis colour contrasting against standard clothing. 

Below we take a look at the hi vis colour meaning and understand how each would be suitable for your industry and job role: 

Orange 

An orange safety vest provides high visibility and can be easily detected in all surroundings.  A colour used by hunters and forestry workers (because orange is a manmade colour that doesn’t appear naturally in a forest setting, it provides the right level of contrast to make you stand out); construction sites also use the orange vest for safety. 

Due to its visibility from afar, traffic cones, barrels, and even construction equipment can be painted safety orange as sometimes required by the OSHA. 

However, the downside to an orange safety vest is if it gets dirty, the vest colour will darken, so constant cleaning is a must. 

Yellow 

Yellow safety vests often relate to preventing accidents and keeping people safe.  The human brain actively engages with this colour and associates it immediately with high visibility and safety.  

Most warning signs, PPE, and hazard symbols will also be in this colour to warn people of potential dangers. 

Worn by construction workers and those whose role is predominantly outdoors, emergency workers and roadside workers also use these vests on occasion. 

However, when a yellow safety vest becomes dirty, the yellow shade can become brighter depending on the kind of dirt; this is the case with oil. 

Construction and utility industries tend to opt for yellow hi vis vests, but orange hi-vis clothing is the preferred option for railway workers. 

This is because yellow and green are used for train signalling, so railway workers wear orange so as not to confuse train drivers. 

In addition, most rail maintenance takes place in the countryside, which, as we’ve mentioned above, in wilderness situations, the colour orange provides the highest level of contrast for improved visibility. 

Class of visibility 

Only orange and yellow hi-vis colours are deemed suitable by HSE to provide an adequate level of visibility. 

You will find workwear classified in 3 areas: 

Class1 – this is the lowest level of visibility. 

Class 2 – an intermediary level of visibility that would include wearing hi vis vests and tunics. 

Class 3 – the highest level of visibility that includes jackets with long sleeves, parka coats, trousers, etc. 

To ensure visibility at night, workwear must meet Class 3 specifications and include a certain amount of reflective tape across the chest, arms, shoulders, and legs.  Items of workwear clothing falling into this category include hi vis overalls, jackets, and trousers. 

But which colour provides you with the highest level of protection? 

Yellow or orange…. yellow or orange….well, it all depends! 

It’s all about researching your environment and background, identifying which colour will offer you the best contrast and the highest recognition. 

Orange is clearly seen from a distance, but yellow is more noticeable to the human brain to warn us and remind us of safety first. 

Whether you require standard hi vis workwear like the Portwest hi vis Bomber jacket or a Portwest hi vis vest, you must keep in mind all visibility regulations and on-site guidance and policy. 

Both colours and clothing items will also require regular cleaning and maintenance to maintain all safety benefits. 

Those clothing items with reflective materials included help to add even more visibility, making them a wise investment to stay safe and stay protected. 

At Active Workwear, we sell a range of Portwest hi vis vests, jackets, gloves, trousers, and more. 

To view our full range, click HERE.

Read the next blog: The best coveralls and boiler suits around


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