Get the Right Reflexive Tape

You purchased your hi-vis rainwear, safety vest, T-shirt or sweatshirt and you believe that you are now highly visible (that is, after all, what hi-vis means, right?). You may be surprised, however to discover that you aren’t as visible as you think. Why? Because not all reflective tape is created equal.

There are primarily two types of reflective tape:

  1. Glass Bead Reflective Material

    reflectivetape1

    Glass Bead reflective tape is made up of thousands of microscopic glass beads (hence the name) “glued” to the tape material. When light is aimed at the tape the tiny glass beads reflect the light back making the wearer “light up”.
    Advantages:
    The nature of the glass bead tape makes it highly flexible and lightweight.
    Disadvantages:
    a. The big problem with glass bead tape is that it loses it’s reflective quality when it gets wet. Many people who are wearing a reflective garment with glass bead tape do not realize how much of their reflectivity is lost when the garment is wet, putting them at risk when working outside in the rain at night.
    b. Glass bead tape does not resist abrasion well.

  2. Prismatic Reflective Material

    reflectivetape3

    Prismatic reflective material is made up of thousands of “micro-prisms” that are covered with a transparent film.
    Advantages:
    a. The prismatic material is waterproof and does not lose it’s reflective quality when wet.
    b. It is much more abrasion resistant than glass bead material
    Disadvantages:
    Prismatic reflective material is not as flexible or lightweight as glass bead material making it feel somewhat restrictive at times.

Additional note:
Although glass bead material is more flexible (able to bend easily with the garment) it is not stretchable (neither is prismatic material) and because of that it can break. In order to address that problem manufacturers are now able to lay the reflective glass bead tape in strips, allowing the garment to stretch without tearing the reflective tape (see image below).

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If you are purchasing a T-shirt, a sweatshirt or any other garment that stretches, consider purchasing one with this type of reflective tape.


Understanding the Standard for High-Visibility Clothing

High-visibility (abbreviated as hi-vis) clothing was designed to make you easier to spot when you are at a work site, out for a walk where vehicles are present or any other time you want to make sure that you are seen. All hi-vis clothing, however, is not created equal. There are different classes, different levels and different types.

The purpose of this paper is to help you navigate these differences to make sure that you have the best protection as well as being compliant.

The ANSI/ISEA 107-2015 standard was designed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) along with the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) in order to determine which hi-vis vest, jacket, raingear, etc… needs to be worn in which situation in order to make sure that employees are visible enough to maintain a safe working environment.

Hi-vis garments are available in raingear, sweatshirts, T-shirts, pants, vests, fall protection vests, hats and incident command vests

Colors

There are only three colors that meet the standard. These colors are fluorescent yellow-green,

fluorescent orange-red and fluorescent red. Any other color does not meet the standard. Be aware of this as there are many different color vests available. Only these three colors meet the standard.

Class 1, 2, 3 and E

There are three classes of hi-vis clothing, each for a specific job application

Class 1 – Designed for areas that are removed from traffic or where the traffic that is present never exceeds 25 MPH.

A Class 1 vest or jacket must have a minimum of 6.46 linear feet of 2″ reflective tape or 9.39 linear feet of 1 3.8″ reflective tape and at least 217 in2 of high-visibility background material.

Class 2 – Designed for areas where the traffic does not exceed 50 MPH. As a general rule this includes most roadways but excludes highways.

A Class 2 garment must have a minimum of 8.375 linear feet of 2″ reflective tape or 12.2 linear feet of 1 3.8″ reflective tape and at least 775 in2 of high-visibility background material

Class 3 – Designed for highways and roadways where speeds will exceed 50 MPH.

A Class 3 garment must have a minimum of 12.92 linear feet of 2″ reflective tape and at least 1240 in2 of high-visibility background material.

Class E – Designed for pants. A Class E pair of pants adds additional background material and reflective tape so that, when combined with a class 2 vest, coat or jacket, we end up with a Class 3 assemble.

Level 1 and 2

In addition to having a “class” rating, you will often see a hi-vis garment with a “level” rating. The level rating actually applies to the reflective tape on the garment. Level 1 retro reflective tape must exceed 65cd/(lx • m2) at observation angle 12° and entrance angle 5° cd/(lx/m2) and a level 2 must exceed 330cd/(lx • m2) at observation angle 12° and entrance angle 5°.

Type “O’, “P” and “R”

Finally, there is also a “type” classification for hi-vis garment designed to reflect the environment in which they are used.

Type O – The “O” stands for “Off-road”.

Type R – The “R” stands for “Roadway”

Type P – The “P” stands for “Public Safety”

Additional considerations

Many hi-vis garments are now also available in a flame resistant material for work in environments where flammability is an issue. Look for the “FR” on the label.

Counterfeits and Fakes

There are plenty of hi-vis garments out there that are made with inferior materials that do not meet the standard. These garments may or may not have fake labels in them that say that they are ANSI approved when, in fact, they are not. Only purchase garment made by trusted manufacturers like M. L. Kishigo, PIP, Radians, Tingley, Majestic, Ergodyne, Blaklader and Occunomix.

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Download the “Understanding the Standard for High-Visibility Clothing” whitepaper