Skip to Primary Navigation Skip to Site Navigation Skip to Main Content All Site Map

Frequently Asked Questions

The Need
Learn more about why we need high visibility safety clothing. Accident stats, etc.

Reflective Materials
Learn more about retroreflective materials, how they perform, etc.

Daytime & Low-Light Visibility
Learn more about fluorescent vs. retroreflective materials

Why Choose 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material?
Learn more about the features & benefits of our products

How Much Reflective Material is Enough?
Learn more about the Standards & Regulations for high visibility that require various trim placements

Where to Buy

The Need

Why is there a need for retroreflective material on safety clothing?

Using garments with reflective material increases worker safety under low-light level conditions.
How Frequent are Pedestrian Incidents relating to visibility?
Three out of every 100 occupational fatalities in 1998 were a result of pedestrians on foot being struck by vehicles or mobile equipment (WCB of Canada, 1998).
We wear light coloured clothing, isn't that enough protection?
White clothing can only be seen at 83 m (275 feet) from a vehicle with its headlights on low beams. At 72 km/hr (45 mph), a driver requires 203 meter (675 feet) to detect and recognize a hazard and perform a successful evasive maneuver.
We use fluorescent garments/vests. Isn't that enough?
Fluorescent materials are suitable for daytime conditions but ineffective at night and less visible than white fabrics. Under low-level conditions, reflective materials are also needed.


Reflective Materials

What is the difference between reflective materials and retroreflective materials?
Almost all surfaces are reflective. This is the ability of a material to bounce light off of its surface so that it can be seen. There are different types of reflectivity: diffuse, mirror and retroreflection. Retroreflective materials are only one type of reflective materials. Diffuse reflection is the most common type of reflectivity. It occurs when light strikes a rough surface, such as pavement, foliage, clothing, and vehicles. These surfaces cause the light to scatter in all directions. The scatter light can be seen by our eyes. Mirror reflection occurs when light strikes surfaces that are smooth or glossy. The light reflects off the surfaces at an equal, but opposite angle to the source. Light bounced by mirror reflection may or may not be seen by our eyes. Retroreflection occurs when light bounces from a surface that is engineered to return light in the direction of its source. If a person is looking at the retroreflective material, and is positioned near the light source, this retroreflected light may be seen by our eyes. This is why a driver who is sitting in a vehicle near the light source provided by the vehicle can see the light being reflected from the retroreflective material on a person's garment who is standing at a distance in the beam of light.
When would I use retroreflective materials? Retroreflective materials in appropriate trim widths, lengths and performance are effective for improving visibility under low-light level conditions.
Do workers have to be facing a light for the reflective material to be effective?
Not with 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective material. The 3M bead technology ensures excellent visibility at all angles, allowing the wearer to be seen as they move about.


Daytime and Low-Light Visibility

Can retroreflective materials retroreflect in the daylight?
Yes, retroreflective materials can retroreflect in the daylight. However, there is little contrast between the light retroreflected from the retroreflective material and the background (ambient) environment. Because of the lack of contrast, retroreflective materials are not effective for visibility enhancement of daytime conditions. Retroreflective materials are most effective under low-light level conditions.
What is a fluorescent material?
Materials that demonstrate fluorescence are those that can absorb energy in the near-ultraviolet and visible regions of the electromagnetic spectrum from the sun, then reemit the energy as longer wavelength visible light. The light energy from the sun that is converted into light energy that we can see offers daytime visibility enhancement not present with other colours. Fluorescent materials are most effective to daylight conditions.
Can retroreflective materials be fluorescent?
Yes, some retroreflective materials are made to be fluorescent. However, not all retroreflective materials are fluorescent. Furthermore, not all fluorescent materials are retroreflective.


Why Choose 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material?

Is 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material a new technology?
No. 3M has been producing retroreflective material for over half a century. 3M offers two types of retroreflective technologies for personal safety: Microprismatic and glass bead materials.
Is 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material launderable?
All 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Materials are launderable. Some are also dry-cleanable and others are also Industrial launderable. Please choose the appropriate product for your wash and exposure conditions.
Is 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material flame resistant?
Some 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Materials are flame resistant. Our products are successfully used on millions of sets of fire-fighting protective gear globally. Please choose the appropriate product to meet your flame resistance requirements.
Will 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material resist abrasion?
Everything abrades in time. 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material can be abraded, as normal fabrics, but will retain good day colour and low-light level retroreflectivity for the normal useful life of the garment to which it is applied. A reflective product must not be judged on aesthetics only - performance is paramount.
Will 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material work when it is raining?
Under heavy rainfall (12.7 mm or 1/2" per hour) 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material retains 60% (new material) of effective reflectivity. For example, 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material 8910 Silver Fabric which typically demonstrates a brightness (coefficient of retroreflection, Ra) of 500 cd/lux/m2 when dry, retains 300 cd/lux/m2 in rainfall conditions. Did you know we are brighter wet than many competing products are dry?


How Much is Enough?

How much retroreflective material should we use?
The type, brightness, amount, and placement of retroreflective material is an individual choice. This decision will be affected by the workplace that the workers are found in. Take into consideration: traffic speeds, workplace clutter, task load of the wearer, task load of the driver, wash conditions, and flame resistance requirements. End-users can turn to standards for guidelines.
What trim placement of retroreflective material should we use?
Use of patterns that outline the human form and provide 360 degree visibility is best. Standards may give good guidelines regarding trim placement. Please refer to the CAN/CSA Z96- 02, EN-471: 2004 or ANSI/ISEA 107-2004 standards.
What is a specification?
A specification is a document that explicitly describes the performance property or product that is required for the visibility-enhancing garment.
What is a standard?
A standard is a document that provides minimum performance properties required for compliance.
Why should I write a specification?
Specifications should be written because the products that can be purchased in the market are not all alike. Products may vary in retroreflective performance, wash and abrasion resistance, as well as performance under heat or flame conditions. Safety officers should identify what products best suit their application requirements, then document the requirement in a specification. Safety officers can specify a standard for use in their application.
What high visibility garment standards are available?
End-users may turn to the CAN/CSA Z96-02, EN-471: 2004 High-visibility warning clothing standard or the ANSI/ISEA 107-2004.

CAN/CSA Z96-02 Purchasing inquiries
Tel: 416-747-4044
Fax: 416-747-2510

EN-471: 2004 Purchasing Inquiries
Attn: Customer Services Publications at Milton Keynes
Tel: 011 44 0908 221166
Fax: 011 44 0908 226888

ANSI/ISEA 107-2004 Purchasing Inquiries
ISEA The Safety Equipment Association
1901 North Moore Street, Arlington, VA 22209
Tel: 703-525-1695
Fax: 703-528-2148


3M™ Scotchlite™ collage