Survival of the brightest: Don’t be a cats’ eye, be a glow worm!

When it comes to workplace health and safety, employers have a legal and moral duty to protect their staff’s health, safety and welfare. This also applies to any visitors to your business premises, and other individuals that might be affected by your business. This is something that’s very important to for both business owners and facilities managers to ensure, with the Labour Force Survey revealing that around 609,000 injuries occurred in workplaces in 2016/17. However, protecting employees is more than just a legal obligation. After all, it’s a known fact that safe and happy workers equal more productive ones.

At phs Besafe, we provide our protective workwear supply and laundry service to over 3,000 UK sites, helping to ensure the protection and comfort of thousands of people. Due to our extensive experience, we know just how important it is to protect your staff, particularly those in the construction and industrial industries. This is because they frequently work in environments with low light levels (such as railways, ports and construction sites), which puts them at an increased risk of being hit by moving vehicles and falling objects. To prevent this risk, workers should wear high visibility garments in such environments, such as those from the Glow Gear range from phs Besafe.

To help businesses fulfil their legal and moral obligations in regards to health and safety, we strive to go the extra mile to protect our clients’ employees by ensuring our garments comply with the relevant safety standards. we also aim to be at the forefront of innovation with our products and services, and one of the ways phs Besafe are doing this is through our Glow Gear workwear. Made up of a range of high visibility garments that react to changing levels of light, it takes inspiration from many of nature’s light providers, such as glow worms and fireflies. This provides wearers with a third level of protection, because the light the garments emit is based on the level of light in the wearer’s environment.

How do standard high visibility garments work?

High visibility garments (such as jackets, trousers and coveralls) are made from a fluorescent material, and they also feature reflective tape. Both the fluorescent material and reflective tape work in slightly different ways, but ultimately, they work together to ensure the wearer is visible in various conditions, such as daylight and darkness. High visibility workwear does this by:

  • The sun’s ultraviolet rays reacting with the fluorescent material of the garment (which can be yellow, orange, red, pink and green in colour). It absorbs these ultraviolet rays to reemit visible light, giving the garment the impression that it’s glowing. This increases visibility of the wearer in daylight, though the effect is stronger in poor light conditions, such as foggy weather.
  • Light from various sources (such as car headlights) being absorbed by the reflective tape. This makes the tape ‘glow’, which enables the wearer of the high visibility garments to be seen at night or when they’re working in environments with low light levels. However, there needs to be a light source nearby for this to work.

To ensure your employees are visible when working in daylight and low light levels, provide them with workwear that combines both fluorescent material and reflective tape.

How high visibility garments take inspiration from cats’ eyes

Much like high visibility garments, cats’ eyes appear as though they glow in the dark. This is due to the fact that, unlike humans, their eyes have a special reflective layer called the tapetum lucidum. It works in a very similar way to the fluorescent material and reflective tape of high visibility garments because it absorbs light from other sources and reflects it. The advantage of this for our furry feline friends? it helps them to see better in low light conditions.

How do our Glow Gear garments provide extra visibility?

Standard high visibility garments will give your employees two layers of visibility due to the fluorescent properties and reflective tape, helping them to be seen in both daylight and low light conditions (such as fog). The protective workwear in phs Besafe’s Glow Gear range reacts to changing light levels, giving the wearer a third layer of protection.

As the below image shows, the different layers of visibility that these garments provide (based on the wearer’s environment) are:

  1. Daytime fluorescence
  2. Retro reflectivity
  3. Phosphorescent illumination

The reason that our Glow Gear is able to offer this extra layer of protection is due to its reflective tape. It utilises photo-luminesce technology, which provides visibility in the following way:

  1. Photons in the reflective tape absorb energy from both natural and artificial forms of UV light.
  2. The tape’s photons generate the increased activity of electrons.
  3. The electrons release their energy in the form of light, which automatically adjusts depending on the level of light in the wearer’s current environment.

How we take inspiration from nature’s illuminators

As we’ve already explained, our Glow Gear range offers daytime fluorescence and retro reflectivity in the same way that standard high visibility workwear does. Therefore, it works in exactly the same way. However, the third layer of protection it provides is phosphorescent illumination, which utilises photo-luminesce technology.

There are several instances of phosphorescent illumination occurring in nature. One great example is Malta’s Blue Grotto, a popular tourist attraction which is known for its beautiful phosphorescent glow. This glow occurs because the sky reflects the white sandy seabed, giving off a bright cobalt blue colour. Blue Grotto has an impressive arch of over 30m and a system of sixcaves, and thanks to sunlight, these mirror the shades of orange, purple and green off the minerals in the rocks.

This spectacular display of colours can be seen daily from sunrise, until around 1pm. However, at night, the underwater life also gives off a phosphorescent glow.

In Japan, an area called Toyama Bay is also home to a phosphorescent illumination, but this is provided by the presence of a phosphorescent creature called the firefly squid in its waters. Sometimes referred to as the ‘sparkling enope squid’, it produces its own light-generating protein crystals. As RNZ explains, these proteins are enzymes which “catalyse, or speed up, the chemical reactions that produce light.”

Glow worms and fireflies are other more common natural light providers, and their glows are also due to a chemical reaction. In the case of glow worms (which are actually the larvae of a mosquito-like fly), the pale blue light they emit is to attract prey to the silk-fibre snares they create. Their blue light is the product of a chemical reaction between luciferin (a waste product) luciferase (an enzyme), adenosine triphosphate (the energy molecule) and oxygen.

Similarly, fireflies aren’t flies; they’re carnivorous beetles that have a little lantern on the underside of their abdomen, and this enables them to emit a flashing light. This light is also created by the luciferase enzyme reacts with other chemicals in the insect’s body. Unlike glow worms, fireflies regulate the light they emit by controlling the amount of air that’s supplied to the cells. Although it’s unknown why they glow, it’s theorised that it may be a way for male and female fireflies to attract mates.

Although the ability for these creatures to glow is called bioluminescence, the way its generated by a chemical reaction is similar to the way that the tape on our Glow Gear generates the increased activity of electrons. This enables them to release their energy in the form of light.

Glow the brightest with Glow Gear

There are many benefits of supplying your employees with high visibility garments from our Glow Gear range. The first, and most obvious is that they provide an additional layer of protection that allows the wearer to be visible and protected in all light conditions, including in harsh weather. This is also helped by the fact that the garments automatically react to changing levels of light to give you the right degree of visibility in your current working environment.

Another advantage of our Glow Gear workwear is that their dual reflective tape is charged by sunlight, and it has a superfast charge. As an example, just 5 minutes of sunlight is needed to provide employees with 8 hours of glow from the workwear!

All of the high visibility workwear in our Glow Gear range is also fully compliant with EN20471. This is the European Standard for high visibility workwear, and this is split into 3 classes to assess a garment’s level of suitable of suitability and durability. In fact, many of the items in this range provide the highest level of visibility required by this Standard. Additionally, the garments are compliant with GO/RT 3279 (the Railway Group Standard), making the garments suitable for use within the UK railway industry.

To find out more about how you can protect your staff with our workwear supply and rental service and our industrial laundry service, contact phs Besafe today.

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