Hi-vis Reflectivity and Retro-reflectivity

Reflective & Retro-reflective materials in hi-vis workwear

Published 05/05/2012

Most surfaces have some degree of reflectivity but this is mostly diffuse reflection. Diffuse reflection is where light hits a surface and scatters. The disadvantage of this is that the reflection goes in many directions and breaks apart into many wavelengths.

Hi-vis workwear additionally use retro-reflective materials, which are designed to bounce most of the light back to its source instead of scattering it. There are two main technologies used, glass bead and prismatic.

  • Glass bead
    Available as a tape, and is quite inexpensive, but more of the light is lost internally in the bead, so less light is reflected back.

  • Prismatic
    Available as a vinyl tape, is more expensive but reflects back more light than the glass bead tape.

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