Colours and visibility for forestry and tree care

Protection in forestry and tree care isn’t only about chainsaw protection or fall arrest. It also refers to being seen. Wear protective clothing in the right colours to be visible at all times. But which colours are advisable? Let’s look into the EN ISO 20471 and EN 17353 standards and further recommendations especially for forestry and arboriculture.

Visibility in forests

High visibility clothing in forestry is becoming increasingly important, due to storm damage or working in younger nature, meaning that the greenery is closer to the ground. According to Germany’s KWF, and for FPA certification, the high visibility surface of jackets must contain at least a third of the front and backside’s total surface. The more surface is covered in high visibility colours, the better. It should also not show a camouflage-ish pattern, etc.

High visibility colours and surfaces

It’s important to know that not all flashy colours count as high visibility according to EN ISO 20471. Only three fluorescent colours are allowed: HV yellow, HV orange and HV red. For forestry, high visibility yellow should be used in combination with another bright colour, as even clothing with high visibility accents can have a camouflage effect. The combination of HV yellow and green can, f.ex., resemble the colours of the leaves around you and you might not be noticed at all. Therefore, using high visibility orange in combination with any colour or hi vis yellow with red is preferred, as it’s always visible.

The best option is to have at least half of the upper arms in high visibility colours. It’s even better to have the full arms in hi vis colours. A visible jacket is really important, but we shouldn’t forget that your helmet should also offer good visibility, similar to the forestry jackets.

Tree care

There are fewer risks in the forest, but especially in tree care, work is often done at the roadside. When an arborist is working on the road and is not participating in the traffic, he or she is a passive user. Combined with traffic speed of more than 15 km per hour, the risk level is high and use of EN ISO 20471 protective garments is advised.

EN ISO 20471 high visibility clothing for high risk situations

As we’re talking about visibility, it’s really important to mention EN ISO 20471, the European standard for high visibility clothing in high risk situations. This standard is meant to increase visibility during daytime, twilight and at night. Its main objective is to reduce risks and to prevent accidents.

Fluorescent vs retroreflective surfaces

EN ISO 20471 clothes include two important elements: fluorescent materials and retroreflective striping. The fluorescent materials react with the UV of light and guarantee better visibility during the day. They don’t improve visibility at night. The retroreflective striping, on the other hand, sends the light back to its source. They only improve visibility at night by reflecting the lights of cars or other vehicles.

Two optical technologies are used for reflectivity. The glass beads technology is the most common, in which glass beads are coated with aluminum, bouncing back light. The micro-prism technology, on the other hand, creates a reflective effect by breaking off the light.

EN ISO 20471 classes and surfaces

If you would like to learn more about EN ISO 20471’s classes and the m2 of fluorescent and retroreflective material, please have a look at this standard’s page.

EN 17353 enhanced visibility in medium risk situations

While EN ISO 20471 is used in high risk situations, EN 17353 is intended to provide visibility in medium risk situations. Protective clothing that complies with EN 17353 is suitable for people who don’t need to wear EN ISO 20471 clothing according to their risk analysis.

EN 17353 design colours

While for PPE in accordance with EN ISO 20471 only three colours (fluorescent yellow, fluorescent orange-red and fluorescent red) are allowed, EN 17353 allows a larger colour range:

  • fluorescent yellow-green
  • fluorescent yellow
  • fluorescent yellow-orange
  • fluorescent orange
  • fluorescent orange-red
  • fluorescent red
  • fluorescent pink

EN 17353 types and surfaces

If you would like to learn more about EN 17353’s types and the m2 of fluorescent and retroreflective material, please have a look at this standard’s page.

Even though these are European standards, each country still has its own interpretations. In Sweden, for example, it’s mandatory to wear EN ISO 20471 class 3 protective garments even in the forest.