The History of Workplace Safety Clothes and Why They’re Necessary

Hi vis hoodie

Why is it that people in certain industries wear safety uniforms, reflective tape on their clothes, or a fluorescent vest? There are good reasons that we work to protect people on the job. Read on to find out more about the history of safety uniforms and other forms of safety clothes.

Who First Invented High-Visibility Clothes?

That honor goes to a man named Bob Switzer. He was injured in a workplace accident back in the 1930s. He realized that if he could have been seen better, he likely would not have been injured. He mixed up some different minerals with some wood varnish and made a paint he called Day-Glo. It worked beautifully.

Are Safety Uniforms the Only Thing Day-Glo Was Used For?

Day-Glo became so popular that it was used not only on things like safety pants but also on toys. During World War II, the military used it to send signals to planes from the ground. Bright fluorescent paint on aircraft carriers showed the planes where to land.

How Did Hi-Vis Clothing Become Standard in the United States

It took a few decades, but even was able to see, over time, that safety clothes with high visibility paint and fabric were a great protection for workers in dangerous environments. Hi vis work jackets and vests became important long before they were mandated by law. That came first in the UK in the 1960s for railroad workers. All work uniforms for such jobs became high visibility in the UK in 1974.

What are the Safety Clothes Laws in America?

In the United States, the American National Standards Institute developed standards for high-visibility clothing. There are three classes of work that require it. Class 1 is for law hazard and involves using just a high-visibility safety vest with reflective strips. Class 2 is for people working in vehicles that move up to 25 miles per hour. These must have wider reflective bands and their safety uniforms must include more than 755 square inches of high-vis fabric. Class 3 is for those working in fast vehicles. As you might expect, they need a lot more covering in bright colors and much wider reflective strips.

Are Safety Uniforms Really Necessary?

Even as it is, a lot of people are hurt and even killed on the job. In 2015, there were 4,836 workers killed while on the job. This amounts to 13 deaths a day. Those who have just started a job are particularly at risk. An employee in their first month is three times as likely to be injured so badly as to lose work time. Young workers, specifically those between 16 and 19 years of age, missed an average of four days of work in 2014. As new workers get used to their environment, safety uniforms are particularly important.

High visibility clothing and safety uniforms provide invaluable protection to those working in potentially hazardous environments. Such clothing is even useful for motorcyclists and bike riders, who have dramatically reduced risks of collisions when wearing high-vis vests. If you or your company work in dangerous environments, make sure everyone is staying safe with the right protective equipment.

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