In order to gain the most effective use of high visibility garments it is import to have an understanding of the difference between fluorescent and retro-reflective materials and how they work.
Fluorescent material is impregnated with a pigment which has the property of converting light in the UV spectrum to light in the visible spectrum, hence noticeably increasing the amount of visible light reflected from its surface. It will therefore only work where there is an appreciable amount of UV light, i.e. daylight, falling on the material. Artificial night-time light sources contain little UV light.
The pigments used in fluorescent materials can usually only be applied to man-made fibres such as polyesters. These materials can sometime be very uncomfortable to wear on hot conditions. AS/NZS 4602:1999 High Visibility Safety garments does allow for high visibility materials made from natural fibres such as cotton. Where safety requirements require a garment to be made of natural fibres (materials that are not capable of taking a fluorescent pigment) the fabrics may use a non-fluorescent colour as specified in AS/NZS 1906.4 in lieu.These materials appear dull when compared to the man-made materials however they are offer much greater levels of wearer comfort. These materials and the garments where they are used do not offer the same visual protection of the man-made materials.
Fluorescent materials must meet the requirements for Class F according to AS/NZS 1906.4:2010 Retroreflective materials and devices for road traffic control purposes - High-visibility materials for safety garments. Colours for normal purposes are specified as either red-orange or yellow. Where there is a requirement in a particular industry or other situation for a clear colour distinction to be made between the colours red and orange, one of the special purpose colours specified in AS/NZS 1906.4 should be selected.
Retroreflective materials cause practically all of the light reflected from their surface to be directed back along the path of the incoming light beam. An observer will not gain the benefit of a retroreflective article unless he/she is observing it from a position closely aligned with, usually just behind, the light source, e.g. a motor vehicle driver sitting almost directly behind the vehicle headlights.
Elliotts High Visibility Safety garments only use high quality retroreflective materials from 3M and Reflexite.
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