The Classification of High Visibility Workwear

Did you know that the second most common cause of death in the workplace today is being hit by a moving vehicle? It is therefore crucial for workers to wear the correct high visibility clothing that conforms to the relevant performance standards (EN ISO 20471) and maintain their workwear for maximum protection.



Hi-vis workwear is essential in industries where a significant proportion of the work takes place near traffic, cranes or other motorised vehicles and for anybody working on A or B roads, motorways, airports, railways, warehouses where fork lift trucks operate etc. It is also necessary for staff undertaking night time operations or working in other poor lighting conditions. The primary role of hi-vis clothing is to reduce the risk of accidents that occur in potentially dangerous settings by making the wearer stand out from the background so they are clearly visible from all angles. It is very important that the workwear is suitable for the job and that the garments — such as vests, t-shirts, polo shirts, trousers and jackets — have the EN ISO 20471 certification.


ISO 20471:2013 High-Visibility Clothing is an international standard that specifies the safety requirements for “high visibility clothing which is capable of visually signalling the user's presence” and determines the appropriateness and endurance of retro-reflective materials.


The standard covers the requirements for the main fabric colour, minimum areas for reflectivity and placement of tape for high-visibility clothing and it categorises hi-vis garments into three classes based on the risk assessment of the conditions and the risks for a particular worker.


The EN ISO 20471 classification (previous EN471) offers 3 degrees of protection:


Class 1 - This gives the lowest level of protection. The total fluorescent area must be at least 0.14 and the reflective area of 0.10m². May only be used if there is a little contact with a few vehicles and/or slow moving traffic.


Class 2 - Gives a much better protection than class 1, especially in day-time, twilight and fog. The total fluorescent area must be at least 0.50m² and the reflective area 0.13m². Class 2 is used in harbours, on railways, building sites, parking places, cross-country searches, load bearing vehicles and other places where class 3 is not required.


Class 3 - This gives the highest level of protection. The total fluorescent area must be at least 0.80m² and the reflective area 0.20m². To be used in the proximity of fast moving traffic.


EN ISO 20471 was released in 2013, replacing EN 471:2003 A1:2007. This means that the garments made to EN471 certification are no longer compliant and should be updated with products that are certified under the new norm.


Other classifications include:


RIS 3279 TOM - This is a higher class of visibility in orange colour that is required for railway workers.

EN ISO 11611 - This is a classification for welders and similar professions. To achieve the classification the clothing requires flaps on external pockets and regulated sizes of pockets for rulers and those below the waist. Additionally garments must meet a tensile strength test and a tear strength that must be met after 50 washes.

EN343 - This is a test for rainwear and garments that are worn in adverse weather conditions. This test has several performance parameters:

X - water penetration resistance (waterproofness) 4 levels

Y - water vapour resistance (breathability ) 4 levels

R - ready made garment (rain tower test is optional)

R may be replaced by an X grade if the test is neither suitable or if it has not been carried out.

For a garment to be waterproof as against showerproof it must have taped seams to prevent water penetration.


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