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Be Seen, Be Safe: Hi-vis clothing for children

Be Seen, Be Safe: Hi-vis clothing for children
17/06/2022

Hi-vis (high visibility) garments can help protect workers by making them visible in high-risk environments. However, workers are not the only people to benefit from the safety provided from this PPE. These garments can also protect children. For example, in the Scandinavian region it is the norm for the entire population to wear hi-vis/reflective gear throughout the winter months

Controversy There aren’t many studies evidencing the benefits of hi-vis. However, a Danish trial in August 2017 with 6,793 cyclists, published in scientific journal Safety Science, found a 47 per cent reduction in incidents where the cyclist was injured when cyclists were wearing a hi-vis jacket with reflective strips. This study was focused on the safety of adults, but the almost 50% decrease in accidents highlights the positive safety impacts that hi-vis can have. Hence, it can therefore be applied to child safety.

A lack of solid evidence about the benefits of hi-vis has led some people to have adverse reactions to wearing it. A study from the journal of Transport and Health summarises:

“we found evidence of resistance to social pressure, expressed by complaining about inconvenience, discomfort (helmets), and personal appearance”.

In contrast, young children do not seem to have these biases about their appearance. Psychologist Oksana Hagerty says, “the ability to be aware of physical appearance, emotions, and feelings is developmentally quite a sophisticated function. It doesn’t come for young children”. With this in mind, in addition to an almost 50% reduction in accidents whilst wearing hi-vis, the positives of children donning this PPE seem to outweigh the negatives.

When should children wear hi-vis clothing?

Roads Safety on the roads has always been a huge topic. Especially educating children to learn how to safely navigate roads. Road safety is part of the curriculum in many schools, however spotting cars is only one part. The cars also need to spot you.

High visibility waistcoats (in a variety of colours) with fluorescent coating make it easy to see the wearer in day light. During the winter months there is less light. In the before mentioned season, reflective strips can illuminate the hi-vis vest vests. As a result this makes the children more visible to passing cars – therefore a great option. Unsure of which high visibility clothing your child should wear? Stick to the rule of fluorescent for the morning, reflective for the afternoon/evening.

Venue visits and children’s summer school

Trips to museums, workplaces and indoor events are some of the most exciting days for children. However, managing this excitement is important. Children must know the ground rules and be able to listen to instructions from teachers. In short, safety is, of course, paramount when staff take large groups of children out of school.

Some of these places can be extremely busy, even on a school day. Children’s hi-vis vests ensure that the children are always visible to staff members. This allows them to do quick routine headcounts and easily identify the children in their care. The hi-vis waistcoats allow the children to standout in a crowd and signify that they are part of a group to members of the public and venue staff. Therefore, if a child accidentally wandered off, they could be easily located and returned to their group.

Hi-vis for bikes An extension of walking alongside roads hi-vis is of paramount importance for children and adults alike whilst riding a bike. The highway code recently changed regarding how drivers are to respond to bikes in an attempt to make the UK roads safer. However, this change does not eliminate the fact that cyclists, especially children, are vulnerable when riding on the road.

A small child on a bike wearing a read helmet and orange hi-vis vest For schools who take children on bike awareness training courses, and parents who ride bikes on the road with their children, hi-vis waistcoats are a must to be clearly seen.

Nature walks/forest school Many schools now have outdoor woodland spaces for the children to explore nature, often called forest school. Other schools take the children to nearby parks and woodland areas to learn. This initiative is fantastic for the children’s understanding of the world around them, but it poses some potential risks regarding visibility.

Woodland areas are either predominantly green or brown depending on the season. This colour palate can cause the children to blend in if their uniform/clothes are not a contrasting colour. High visibility waistcoats or vests ensure that the children stand out from the background and can be easily spotted. It is also important to think about hi-vis vests for children in these spaces in case a child gets lost. Some younger children’s reaction to being lost would be to hide, in this situation the hi-vis vest would make it much easier to find them.

Other scenarios for children’s hi-vis

Many of the above scenarios also apply to community groups/after school clubs/sports groups that children attend. It should be noted that, there are many more specific situations where children’s hi-vis waistcoats would be appropriate.

When assessing a situation for health and safety risks and deciding if wearing hi-vis is an appropriate action it’s important to keep in mind that it is a form of PPE. This point is helpful to remember as it means that deciding whether hi-vis vests for children are needed can be consulted like any other PPE form.

Selecting hi-vis for children Below is a list of PPE guidance on High Visibility Clothing adapted from HSE (Health and Safety Executive).

Before donning a hi-vis clothing item, ask the following questions:

• Is it suitable for the risk? There are various types of high-visibility clothing for a variety of purposes, with numerous options to consider.

• Is it suitable for the activity? Will, for example, wearing a high visibility vest snag and catch on objects and surroundings, compromising safety and enjoyment?

• Is it suitable for the wearer? Does the high visibility clothing properly and comfortably fit, without being too tight or too loose? Are the children interested in wearing this item of clothing? How involved have they been in the decision-making process? There are a great range of different colours to choose from.

• Is it compatible with other types of personal protective equipment (PPE)? Are the children already dressed in reflective clothing, making an additional item unnecessary?

• Are there any standards for the clothing? Yes, BS EN 1150. It assesses the degree of conspicuousness and retro reflectivity.

Finally, ask yourself is this hi-vis clothing appropriate for the environment. Look at the colour palate of the area and choose hi-vis that contrasts with the background. Check out our hi-vis 101 guide and visit the section on seasonal hi-vis jackets. The below diagram is another source to help you select the correct hi-vis PPE.

Should children wear hi-vis waistcoats? As discussed above, giving children high visibility garments to wear can minimise the risk of children being lost or unnoticed by vehicles. It is important to remember that other measures should be put in place such as teaching the children to respond to instructions and informing them about road safety. Hi-vis waistcoats can add an extra layer of safety and give peace of mind to staff and parents when taking children out of school.

Additionally, it can benefit staff, parents or guardians to wear hi-vis vests. This results in children spotting them more easily. Thus, giving the children an extra level of reassurance when out and about.

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