When Hi Vis is Not Hi Vis Enough



As a safety officer, the wellbeing and safety of your company’s employees is your top priority. You work hard to make sure your workplace, your equipment, and your uniforms are compliant. But did you know that much of what is marketed as Hi Vis in Australia is actually not Hi Vis at all? It isn’t cheap to produce quality safetywear that is compliant with Australia’s standards, and many import companies are choosing to go with sweatshops that can mass produce a cheap imitation at a bottom line price. This material is both unsafe for your workers and uncompliant with Australian law. 


Let’s go through a few pointers that will help you determine if your Hi Vis is Hi Vis enough for your application and is actually compliant!


Safetywear Standards: The Minimum Requirements for Hi Vis Clothing


There are three standards you’ll want to be familiar with in order to keep your workplace compliant:


AS/NZ 4602.1: 2011 High visibility safety garments – Garments for high risk applications

This standard classifies the garments into three groups, Class D, Class N, and Class D/N, depending on whether it is meant to be used in the daytime or after dark:

  1. (a)  Class D — a garment designed for outdoor daytime use only, comprising fluorescent or other non-retro-reflective high visibility material.
  2. (b)  Class N — a garment designed for night-time use only, comprising retro-reflective elements on an unspecified background.
  3. (c)  Class D/N — a garment designed for both day and night use, comprising retro-reflective elements on a fluorescent or other non-retro-reflective high visibility background material.

There are a number of specifications as to what garments can be considered compliant under each of these classes. To meet Class D specifications, an item must:

  • Have an approved colour of hi visibility material that encircles the entire upper torso, and covers at least 0.4 sqm.
  • This high visibility material can be yellow, orange, orange-red, or red.
  • Any logo or text on the garment cannot be included in the 0.4 sqm
  • In all cases, the label on the garment also has to show that it is compliant to this ASNZ standard. It is not enough that the specifications are met, it is also critical that the label specifies the standard it complies with.


To meet Class N specifications, a garment must provide high visibility under conditions of retro-reflected light. Think of vehicle headlights at night, or the glare of a torch. These garments include a band or tape of reflective material compliant with standard AS/NZ 1906.4:2010.  This band must be at least 50 mm wide, and can be sewed on in an x or hoop pattern. There are no special requirements for the colour or material of the background of Class N garments.


To meet Class D/N specifications, a Hi-Vis garment must meet both the Class D and Class N standards.


So a bright orange polo shirt might be an example of a garment that would meet Class D specifications, a black shirt with a wide reflective band could meet Class N specifications, and a yellow vest with a wide reflective band might satisfy Class D/N specifications.  There are more restrictions on the types of material used in those garments, however, in standard AS/NZ 1906.4:2010


AS/NZ 1906.4: 2010 Retro-reflective materials and devices for road traffic control purposes – This document—and amendment 1, from 2014—detail the type of retro-reflective materials that can be used in road traffic situations. There are four classes of materials listed:

  • Class F – Fluorescent fabric for Day Use Only (i.e. Hi Vis oranges, yellows, and other compliant colours with fluorescent properties.)
  • Class R – Reflective fabric for Night Use Only (i.e. reflective tape).
  • Class RF – Both Fluorescent and Reflective fabric for Day/Night Use
  • Class W – Fabric for wet use; i.e., Hi Vis rain gear


There’s one thing that is very important to note in regards to usage of class R reflective materials. They have a tightly limited lifespan, as the washing process will slowly disintegrates the reflective properties of the material. You can only expect a reflective tape to remain compliant for about 30 washes.


AS/NZS4399 (UV Protection)

The Hi Vis garments used by workers exposed to UV light --- i.e. everyone working outdoors in the elements—must also contain UV protection. To be compliant, all articles of clothing should have a UPF rating of 40-50 ( Excellent).


Keeping Your Workplace Compliant


The Hi Vis standards don’t only detail what type of Hi Vis garments you need to purchase, they also contain recommendations on application. It is your responsibility to ensure that you:

  1. Have company procedures and policies in place to ensure items are worn correctly and that workers understand why garments will be ineffective if not worn correctly and in the appropriate applications,
  2. Store garments so that fading of fluorescent material and degradation of retroreflective material due to heat are limited,
  3. Keep garments clean by washing/cleaning according to manufacturer’s instructions, and
  4. inspecting the garments on a regular basis and replacing them if badly damaged, soiled or faded. In constant use, garments should be critically examined at 3-month to 6-month intervals.

Old and worn Hi Vis garments do not provide any safety or security for your workers on the job, and it is up to you as safety officer to set up a system for replacing faded garments as needed.


A compliant workplace is a safe workplace, and we’re here to help you keep your workers safe, visible, and compliant to all relevant Australian standards.

If you need any help with safetywear or uniforms, message us at [email protected].