How to keep hi-vis clothing clean and compliant
The darker winter months are when high-visibility (hi-vis) is most needed throughout the year. It's no wonder that towards the end of the year, employees find themselves grabbing their well-used hi-vis, as the longer and darker days appear - are you doing your bit by ensuring that their hi-vis is suitably clean and providing the necessary protection?
According to the latest European regulations for hi-vis PPE, manufacturers must ensure garments comply with standards of luminance, colour contrast, pattern and design. A garment leaves the factory in immaculate condition, but once in use, it doesn’t take long before dirt, or wear and tear, can mean that item of clothing is no longer compliant. Washing hi-vis clothing is necessary for worker safety, but how, by whom, and how often?
Who's responsible for maintaining hi-vis clothing?
Employers have a responsibility to ensure employees’ PPE requirements are clear, and a duty of care to supply relevant, compliant hi-vis gear. Meanwhile, employees must follow the rules about wearing their hi-vis PPE. But it's not always possible for a business to know the exact condition of every item worn by every employee at all times. That's why it's a good idea to ensure workers are aware of the hi-vis specifications of their clothing so they can help identify damage or dirt that may compromise safety.
How often should I wash hi-vis garments?
The process for keeping your hi-vis gear in good, compliant condition, is largely ruled by common sense. The industry in which you operate will determine how frequently you need to wash or replace garments. The clothing of an oil industry employee, for instance, will get dirty quickly. And because dirt impairs the high-visibility panels on a garment, it places the worker at risk, so oil industry workers are more likely to need a more regular washing schedule. However, it’s best not to wash a garment unnecessarily, as too much washing will shorten the lifespan of a garment.
There’s no exact science to keeping your workwear in top condition. But good communication to employees about the importance of looking after hi-vis gear, combined with regular inspections of clothing, are important to ensure employees are well protected. A company’s safety officer needs to keep a close eye on employees’ hi-vis garments and set clear guidelines about when they need to be cleaned or replaced.
What’s the best way to wash hi-vis clothing?
Some companies choose to help maintain the performance and lifespan of hi-vis garments by contracting a professional laundering service which collects garments from your organisation and delivers them back, clean. Anchor Safety uses these launderers and can recommend services that specialise in cleaning hi-vis clothing in ways that minimise the deterioration of the fabric and ensure the item continues to meet safety regulations.
Alternatively, some businesses prefer employees to wash their hi-vis garments at home. Fortunately, regulations stipulate that manufacturers must include clear laundry instructions on the label. The instructions vary according to the type of garment, but usually advise against the use of fabric softeners and state that garments should be washed in lower temperatures.
How do I know when my hi-vis garment needs replacing?
It should be easy to identify when the important features of the garment that make it hi-vis have been compromised. When hi-vis tape is damaged or soiled, it fades to a matt, dull colour. If it’s not reflective or shiny, it’s time to replace the garment because it’s no longer compliant.
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Alternatively, If you’d like to know more about cleaning or maintaining your hi-vis clothing, or require replacement hi-vis PPE, Anchor Safety can help or provide you with the details of professional laundering services. Please call us on 0800 328 5028.