In The Beginning, There Was Network Rail Hi Vis Clothing

Arriving in Britain almost five decades ago, hi vis clothing quickly became a standard in any high-risk occupation – often seen on those in the emergency services and road maintenance workers; however, network rail hi vis clothing was the first of its kind in the UK. High visibility clothes were first invented by an American, Bob Switzer. After he had an industrial accident in the 1930s which left his vision permanently damaged and ended his dreams of becoming a doctor, the recovering Switzer decided to try and improve safety in the workplace. He came up with a bright, fluorescent paint, called ‘day-glo’; before finally putting together the first ever high vis piece of clothing. And the inaugural hi vis garment? His wife’s wedding dress. It is unknown how Patricia Switzer felt about this; but, despite the unorthodox choice for a prototype, the popularity of these futuristic-looking garments spread. They first arrived in the UK via Glasgow railway maintenance workers in 1964 as they trialled them as a way to improve safety records in Scotland and across the rest of the UK. And that’s just what they did. Come the 1970s, the rate of serious injuries and deaths on British railways had fallen significantly over figures from previous years. At this point, the clothing started to catch on. Other industries began to see the importance of hi vis workwear. Today, for anyone working on network rail hi vis clothing is a requirement and gear needs to be suitable for whatever inclement conditions that workers may come up against.