Fluorescence vs. Retroreflection – Is There Really a Difference? In short, yes!

The terms “fluorescent” and “retroreflective” are certainly not new if you work in the world of PPE and PPW. But by stripping away the marketing “jargon” and having a comprehensive understanding of the differences between the two, we can more easily recommend the right gear to the right consumer, keeping our customers happy and at ease at the same time. I can. Now let’s examine fluorescence vs. retroreflection. What’s the difference?

fluorescent material

Pigment impregnated phosphors convert the light hitting the fabric from the UV spectrum to light in the visible spectrum. This significantly increases the amount of visible light reflected from that surface, so it only works if a significant amount of UV light, namely sunlight, is available.

So keep in mind that common artificial light sources when working at night contain very little UV light, which can render your clothing useless for its intended purpose.

Usually, fluorescent material pigments can only be applied to synthetic fibers such as polyester. These materials can be very uncomfortable to wear, especially in hot conditions.

AS/NZS 4602:1999 High-visibility safety clothing may use high-visibility materials made from natural fibers such as cotton. If safety requirements require clothing to be made from natural fibers (materials that cannot absorb fluorescent dyes), non-fluorescent colors as specified in AS/NZS 1906.4 may be used in the fabric instead. These materials look dull when compared to man-made materials, but offer a much higher level of wearer comfort. These materials and the clothing in which they are used do not offer the same visual protection as synthetic materials.

Zetel Arcsafe Z59 Wet Weather Jacket - High Vis Yellow/NavyFluorescent materials must meet the requirements of Class F according to AS/NZS 1906.4:2010 Retroreflective Materials and Devices for Road Traffic Control Purposes – High Visibility Materials for Safety Clothing. The usual desired colors are specified as red-orange or yellow. If a particular industry or other situation requires a clear distinction between red and orange colors, one of the special purpose colors specified in AS/NZS 1906.4 should be selected.

Retroreflective material

A retroreflective material returns substantially all light reflected from its surface back along the path of the incident light beam. Unless the viewer views the retroreflective article from a position directly behind the light source, such as a motor vehicle driver sitting almost directly behind the headlights of a vehicle, the viewer cannot obtain the benefits of the retroreflective article.

Elliotts high visibility safety clothing uses only high quality retroreflective materials from 3M and Reflexite.


If you would like to learn more about our safety products or need expert advice on safety gear that suits your needs, feel free to contact Elliott Australia. We are happy to help!call me 07 3265 2944 Or send us a message – Here.

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