All You Need to Know About EN ISO 20471 Standard

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All You Need to Know About EN ISO 20471 Standard

In the realm of occupational safety, high-visibility (Hi-Vis) clothing plays a crucial role in enhancing both safety and efficiency in the workplace. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has established the EN ISO 20471 standard for high-visibility clothing. This standard is designed to enhance the safety of workers in various high-risk environments by setting regulations for high-visibility workwear. This article introduces EN ISO 20471, exploring how it regulates the design, utilization, and compliance of high-visibility clothing across various industries.

What Is ISO 20471 Standard?

ISO 20471 is a globally recognized standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) that regulates the requirements for high-visibility clothing. First introduced in 2013, the standard details the specifications for the base fabrics, colors, and reflective materials that constitute high-visibility clothing. The standard undergoes review every 5 years, with the latest revision in 2018. It is expected to be replaced by ISO/AWI 20471, currently under development.

The primary objective of ISO 20471 is to ensure that workers wearing high-visibility clothing remain visible in a variety of lighting conditions, thereby significantly reducing the likelihood of accidents in hazardous settings. It mandates the use of vibrant fluorescent colors like yellow, orange, and red—colors that are highly perceptible during daylight. Furthermore, these garments are equipped with retroreflective materials, which play a critical role in enhancing visibility under low-light conditions by reflecting light back towards its source.

ISO 20471 has significantly influenced global safety standards by standardizing safety practices across various industries worldwide. When this standard is adopted by the European Union, it becomes EN ISO 20471, reflecting its integration into European safety regulations. This has facilitated easier compliance for multinational operations and reinforced the importance of uniform safety measures. Its ongoing revisions ensure the standard remains relevant, accommodating new safety technologies and adapting to evolving workplace conditions.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certifications

The Three Classes of EN ISO 20471

EN ISO 20471 classifies high-visibility clothing into three distinct classes, designed to address the specific visibility needs and risks associated with different work environments.

Class 1: Low-Level Visibility

Visibility Level: Class 1 offers the basic level of visibility and is suitable for settings where traffic speeds do not exceed 30 km/h (approx. 19 mph). This level is typically adequate for workers who are well-separated from traffic or are in controlled environments.

Common Uses: Ideal for individuals in warehousing, maintenance roles off the main roads, or event management.

en iso 20471 class 1 high-visibility clothing

Class 2: Medium-Level Visibility

Visibility Level: This class provides a medium level of visibility, necessary for work areas where traffic speeds are above 30 km/h but generally below 60 km/h (approx. 37 mph). Class 2 garments offer enhanced safety for workers in proximity to traffic or in dimmer lighting conditions.

Common Uses: Essential for construction workers, road maintenance crews, and crossing guards, where higher visibility is imperative due to close interaction with vehicle traffic and machinery operation.

en iso 20471 class 2 high-visibility clothing

Class 3: High-Level Visibility

Visibility Level: Class 2 provides the highest level of visibility. This class is crucial for workers near or within areas where traffic exceeds 60 km/h (approx. 37mph) or where there are complex background patterns that may obscure visibility.

Common Uses: Critical for highway maintenance personnel, emergency responders, and tow truck operators, especially in high-speed zones and adverse weather conditions.

en iso 20471 class 3 high-visibility clothing

Material Requirements and Classes Differences

The differentiation between the classes primarily lies in the amount of fluorescent material and retroreflective material used. Class 3, for instance, demands extensive coverage with full sleeves and trousers to maintain visibility from every angle, while Class 1 only requires retroreflective bands on the torso and limbs. Read the requirements section for details.

Requirements for High-Visibility Clothing According to EN ISO 20471

The following are the essential specifications laid out by EN ISO 20471 to enhance worker safety through visibility.

Fluorescent Fabric and Colors: The standard mandates that high-visibility clothing be crafted from materials that stand out in bright, fluorescent colors such as yellow, orange, and red. These colors create contrast against various natural and industrial backgrounds during daylight hours, ensuring that workers are clearly visible from a distance.

Retroreflective Materials: A critical requirement is the inclusion of retroreflective materials. These materials are typically made using tiny glass beads and engineered to reflect light back towards its source, providing visibility in low-light conditions or at night.

Background and Retroreflective Materials Requirements
Classifications Vehicle Speed (km/h) Fluorescent Material (m²) Retroreflective Material (m²)
Class 1 ≤ 30 ≥ 0.14 ≥ 0.10
Class 2 ≤ 60 ≥ 0.50 ≥ 0.13
Class 3 > 60 ≥ 0.80 ≥ 0.20

Placement and Size of Materials: EN ISO 20471 specifies the minimum required areas and width for both retroreflective and fluorescent materials to ensure multi-directional visibility. The placement of these materials, such as around the torso, arms, and legs, maximizes the wearer's visibility from different angles.

examples of designs of high-visibility clothing according to en iso 20471

Durability and Performance: The materials used must undergo extensive testing for color fastness, tensile strength, and wear resistance. This ensures that the garments maintain their high-visibility properties throughout their lifecycle, enduring tough work conditions without significant degradation.

construction worker wearing high-visibility safety vest

Certification Process for EN ISO 20471 High-Visibility Clothing

Getting EN ISO 20471 certification for high-visibility clothing is a thorough process, carefully designed to confirm that every garment meets the strict requirements crucial for ensuring safety in high-risk environments.

Testing of Materials: The test of the base fluorescent material involves evaluating the brightness and luminance of fabrics, along with assessing the reflective efficiency of retroreflective tapes after simulated wear conditions. These materials must meet established criteria for durability and visibility maintenance, even after repeated use.

Garment Design Requirements: EN ISO 20471 sets forth minimum coverage areas for reflective and fluorescent materials to ensure adequate visibility from all viewing angles. The precise placement of these materials is evaluated thoroughly to ensure optimal visibility under different lighting conditions. Following this process, the garment is precisely classified into one of the three designated classes based on its level of visibility.

Compliance and Labeling: After testing and classification, garments are appropriately labeled with their compliance class and a CE mark, guiding end-users in selecting the correct class based on the specific hazards of their work environment.

example labelling of en iso 20471

Continuous Compliance: Given the safety-critical nature of these garments, a continuous evaluation process is necessary. Garments are required to be re-certified every five years to accommodate changes in materials, design, or production processes, ensuring ongoing compliance with safety standards.

assessing the material of high-visibility clothing

Maintaining Compliance: Practical Recommendations

In hazardous workplaces, maintaining the effectiveness and compliance of high-visibility clothing according to EN ISO 20471 standards is crucial for protecting workers in high-risk environments.

Regular Inspection and Maintenance: It is essential for workers and employers to conduct regular inspections of high-visibility garments for signs of wear and tear, such as faded colors, damaged reflective strips, or dirt that might obscure visibility. Maintaining these garments in top condition preserves their high-visibility properties and ensures ongoing compliance with EN ISO 20471.

Understanding Garment Classes: Works and employers must ensure that they are equipped with the appropriate class of high-visibility garments tailored to specific working conditions as stipulated by EN ISO 20471.

Proper Cleaning Practices: Following the manufacturer's guidelines for washing and drying high-visibility clothing helps prevent damage to reflective materials. Workers and employers should avoid the use of harsh chemicals that could degrade the fabric.

Educate and Train: Training on the significance of wearing high-visibility clothing correctly and maintaining its condition is crucial. Workers should be knowledgeable about how to wear and adjust their garments to maximize visibility and recognize when a garment needs to be replaced due to wear and tear or diminished effectiveness.

Monitor and Replace: High-visibility garments are subject to wear and often have a finite lifespan, especially when subjected to frequent washing and UV exposure. Workers and employers should establish routines to monitor the condition of these garments and replace them when they no longer conform to EN ISO 20471 standards.

Custom Branding: For companies utilizing branded high-visibility clothing, it's imperative to ensure that logos and other markings don't obscure the reflective and fluorescent materials. Carefully placing the logo can ensure compliance while still effectively promoting the brand.

worker wearing high-visibility safety vests


EN ISO 20471 has established a global benchmark for workplace safety. Setting stringent design, material, and performance requirements, it ensures that workers are visible under various conditions, thereby mitigating the risk of accidents. As workplace dynamics evolve, EN ISO 20471 continues to adapt, underscoring the enduring importance of visibility in maintaining worker safety. Workers, employers, and safety professionals must remain vigilant and proactive in upholding these standards for a safe workplace.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is EN ISO 20471?

EN ISO 20471 is an international standard that specifies requirements for high-visibility clothing designed to make the wearer more visible in various light conditions. It focuses on ensuring that workers in high-risk environments, such as those near traffic or operating machinery, are seen clearly to prevent accidents.

What are the classes of high-visibility clothing under EN ISO 20471?

EN ISO 20471 categorizes high-visibility clothing into three classes based on the level of risk in the working environment:

  • Class 1 provides the lowest level of visibility for higher traffic speeds up to 30 km/h.
  • Class 2 offers moderate visibility suitable for higher traffic speeds up to 60 km/h.
  • Class 3 ensures the highest level of visibility, suitable for higher traffic speeds over 60 km/h and extremely hazardous environments.

What are the key requirements of high-visibility clothing under EN ISO 20471?

High-visibility clothing under EN ISO 20471 must meet specific requirements for the base fabric color, retroreflective material, and placement of these materials to ensure visibility from all angles. The standard also specifies the durability of materials to maintain visibility after wear and exposure to environmental elements.

How does EN ISO 20471 impact workplace safety?

EN ISO 20471 enhances workplace safety by setting rigorous visibility requirements for protective clothing. This ensures that workers are easily seen in a variety of lighting conditions, significantly reducing the risk of accidents in environments where high visibility is crucial.

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