“You have to spend money to make money” is an old adage that most executives heed when it comes to equipment, staffing and other major expenses. But in other areas of the business, including high-visibility workwear, purchasing decisions tend to be based on cost alone. Companies typically spend as little as possible to meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) 107 requirements for high-visibility, but investing in high-quality workwear can have several tangible and intangible benefits that affect the bottom line.

Safety Improvements
When it comes to workwear, most companies consider basic hi-vis vests enough to alleviate safety concerns. However, jobsite incidents related to visibility occur for several reasons. The most common issue is the use of old, worn-out garments with reflective tape that no longer meets minimum brightness requirements. In some cases, this can occur in as few as 20 washes.

Incidents also occur because workwear sold on the open market often does not meet ANSI standards off the shelf. According to a 3M study of 79 hi-vis garments tested out of the package, 33 percent failed the initial brightness test.

These shortcomings leave contractors at risk and can expose the company to fines and increased insurance costs. Jobsite safety is a key consideration when assessing risk, and insurance companies are aware of standards and requirements that keep contractors safe.

Many European companies have already rethought their approach by trading vests for full outerwear that meets the European ANSI equivalent standards. In the early 2000s, some of these industries even adopted full hi-vis pants. Both innovations cover a larger percentage of the body in reflective tape and bright textiles in effort to lower risks on the jobsite. The change is part of a larger European culture shift that has led to better safety in the form of built-in kneepads and ergonomic enhancements—a trend beginning to take hold in the United States as manufacturers adapt their products to meet ANSI standards.

Addressing Ongoing Expenses
From traditional jeans to specialized hi-vis garments, clothing and workwear is not a durable good from an economic standpoint. Textiles aren’t made to last on jobsites. Materials snag or wear through and reflective tape fades, so improvements to minimize these incidents are crucial. Double-front pants and triple stitching are becoming popular, but they’re a short-term solution. Some premium manufacturers are going a step further by conducting research and interviewing craft professionals to find out where and how garments fail. Research-driven product development is leading to high-wear points reinforced with extra durable fabrics or increased stitching.

Pinpointing and improving problem areas allow hi-vis manufacturers to engineer a garment that is optimized for work but is still cost effective. Contractors in the field using this type of premium outerwear report their vest jackets and pants last up to twice as long as traditional ANSI-compliant workwear.

Professionalism in the Workplace
The differences in high-quality workwear culture go beyond direct cost savings. On a jobsite, contractors are responsible for the first impression. Investing in matching workwear with embroidered logos can become an advertising tool—an opportunity that often is missed with jobsites comprised of old jeans and tee shirts. A strong focus on appearance is a competitive advantage that is slowly taking hold.

Initiatives that differentiate or effectively save resources are more important than ever. For most companies, workwear is still a source of untapped potential.


Marcus Carlberg is president of Blaklader America, Sarasota, Fla. For more information, cal (800) 948-6452 or email marcus.carlberg@blaklader.com.