Safety High Visibility

by Fargy

We wear high visibility clothing to decrease our chance of accidents. Let's look a little closer.

High Visibility (HiVis) clothing is clothing that is becoming increasingly common in Australia in order to increase safety. Here we have a chat about why that is and what that means. HiVis is generally the yellow or orange light-reflective vests that you would see when people are working on building sites, trucking or road work as some examples.

Get a little bit closer.

We use our senses to observe the world around us and help us make judgements.

Vision is the best for this, light travels faster than anything, so being able to see gives us a time advantage.  We can see the truck coming towards us, which gives us time to make a decision and react.

The further away we see things the more time we have to make decisions.

Vision gives us the most information in the shortest time.

Other senses play a part in safety, an experienced operator will know something is wrong with a machine by a change in sound, and can sometimes even tell what the problem is from the sound.

But in most circumstances our vision is our primary sense.  This is why high visibility items are useful, we can see them from further away and that gives us more time to react.

We are in effect using our vision to see into the future.  Or rather, possible futures.

We see the workers on the road sooner.  And that time gives us more options to use the information in.

Vision aids are useful for other aspects of Safety too.  For example Safety signs.   Designed to give a quick bit of information that requires no particular language to understand.

The key here is that vision is helping provide information and that improves our decision making.

Which suggests to me that information is key to safety.


The Hierarchy of Controls. The order in which we do things.

Hierarchy of Controls, the order of safety repairs.
Hierarchy of Controls, the order of safety repairs.

The Hierarchy of Controls shows the order in which we work through solutions for safety issues.

Basically we want to get rid of dangers.

The example of High Visibility clothing is at the bottom level.  The HiVis part is an improvement on previous practices.  Information was used to provide these clothes because they decrease accidents, which improves the long term operation of the organisation.  Or in more basic terms it saves money.

Highly visible signage is the next level above Personal Protective Equipment.  These exist purely to provide information.   Which improves safety.

Information is vision.

Our high visibility clothing gives information to those further away.

That information helps with decision making.

Information of any sort helps with Safety.

Safety is part of a connected number of chaotic systems.  The weather is one such example, it changes every day and will play a part in all organisations.  This is why weather reports are relied upon.  Farmers need them, sports teams look at them, anyone planning a future event should use them.

Now despite thousands of years of trying to look into the future of the weather, we are only good for a few days.

Which is the same problem for preventative Safety.  We cannot control weather but we can use weather information to help control outcomes for our activities that are outdoors.

It's due to this chaos that we need to explore what information we need.

Which information helps us see into the future best?

To start with, measure everything.

Analyze what information you collect.  If you do it right you will find information about your organisation that you did not know.

Those obstacles further down the road will become more visible.

Toolbox meetings just before a new job also provide more up-to-the-minute information, more valuable information to see what's just in front.

You will find a better way forward for your safety and for your organisation, both are the same thing.


Other articles by the same author.

We wear personal protective equipment, but there is more to safety when we suit up.
Every group has someone that performs risk assessments more carefully and talks about safety more than others. These people become Safety Champions.
We think we are rational, but we don't act like it. Safety is the control of risks, and we assess risk through emotional filters. We can't help it.
Safety evolves not only in our personal lives and experiences but in our societal structures. Our rules of the game as it were. Each rule is paid for in blood.
Updated: 10/18/2013, Fargy
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Jo_Murphy on 10/26/2013

I look forward to it, Jo

Fargy on 10/26/2013

Thanks! I try to put one idea in each article that I've not quite heard before. Given the paucity of any articles on safety I doubt we will clash. And even is we did it's always best to have two voices explaining a subject so that readers can understand better.

Jo_Murphy on 10/26/2013

I would be a safety champion!
Everybody has to be a champion of something I guess!
Excellent article,

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