Last updated: August 17, 2021

Today we're going to talk about a very important piece of protective equipment: the reflective waistcoat! It is essential for those who work on highways or busy streets with little light, and can often prevent fatal accidents. If you work independently in areas that require the use of reflective waistcoats or if you need to provide the best models for your employees, stay with us! In this article, we will teach you all about these equipments and show you how to make the best possible purchase.

First of all, the most important things

  • The use of reflective or retroreflective waistcoats, called high visibility garments, is mandatory for workers in areas with large vehicle movements.
  • There are rules that regulate the use of this equipment. For example, fluorescent and reflective strips must be at least five centimeters each.
  • It is essential to buy quality models to ensure your safety. Besides this main function, some models also facilitate the execution of certain services.

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Best Reflective Vest: Our Picks

Buying Guide

Should you buy a reflective waistcoat after all? Why is it so important? How can it help you? It's time to answer the most frequently asked questions about reflective waistcoats!

homem de colete refletor

Find out what to consider when choosing a reflective waistcoat. (Photo: Kateryna Babaieva / Unsplash)

What is a reflective waistcoat and what is it for?

Reflective waistcoats or retroreflective waistcoats are equipment used by professionals who need to be seen at long distances. They are usually made up of fluorescent bands, in strong colours such as orange or yellow, and other reflective bands, which are mainly needed at night.

Reflective waistcoats are suitable for both day and night

The effect of the reflective waistcoat, with one part ideal for the day and another for the night, makes it a versatile piece of equipment capable of providing users with total safety. Some models can also have special spaces for tools or work instruments. There are many professionals who work in dangerous areas or with a great movement of vehicles and who may be exposed to accidents or being run over. It is for them that the use of a reflective waistcoat is absolutely indispensable.

Which professionals need to wear reflective vests?

The list of professionals who work in dangerous areas due to their proximity to highways and busy streets is long. Below we list some of the main ones:

  • Construction workers in traffic: Many workers risk their lives messing about on highways and roads. Although the necessary signs are always in place, it is essential that they wear equipment such as reflective waistcoats.
  • Motorcyclists: Motor cycles do not produce the same luminosity as cars, and many accidents happen because of this. Therefore, professionals who spend many hours on these two-wheeled vehicles have much to gain by wearing reflective waistcoats and other ways to stand out.
  • Traffic wardens: In areas near schools, universities, hospitals or even construction sites, it is common for traffic wardens to have to watch out for the movement of vehicles. A good reflective waistcoat is also a must for them.

Pavers, landscapers, construction workers, rubbish collectors and cyclists are also among those who may need reflective and retroreflective waistcoats. For them, it is best to use common sense regarding the possible danger each situation poses.

What are the advantages of a reflective vest?

A high standard reflective waistcoat that is compliant with safety regulations, with good bands for both day and night, can protect workers at all times. It is versatile and durable, withstanding constant use. Mandatory in certain situations, it can do more than simply make workers more visible. Quality models have spaces for tools and work instruments and make it easier to get the job done. Another feature of some models is that they are one size fits all, which makes it easier to buy when many models need to be purchased. It is possible to choose between this type or those with varied sizes, indicated when the purchase will be made in a unitary way. For cyclists and motorcyclists, the only disadvantage is that reflective waistcoats are not usually very beautiful, hindering those who like to be always in fashion. Check the table below for the main advantages and disadvantages of reflective and retroreflective waistcoats:

  • Mandatory for certain services
  • They are usually durable and resistant
  • Some models help in the execution of the service
  • They help in the safety of motorcyclists and cyclists
  • They are not pretty, which may make some motorcyclists or cyclists despise them

Reflective waistcoat or retro reflective vest?

There is a basic difference between simple reflective waistcoats and retroreflective ones: the way the light is diffused. While the former only emit a strong signal of someone's presence, mainly due to the strong colours such as red, yellow and orange that they use, the latter are more complex. A retro-reflective waistcoat returns light back towards its original source at almost the same intensity as it receives it. And the darker or poorly signposted the workplace, the more this reverse emission needs to be high. As already mentioned, Brazilian legislation says that waistcoats must have fluorescent and reflective strips of at least five centimetres each. However, the darker and poorly signaled the place is, the more it is recommended a predominance of the material capable of returning the light in high intensity. We have prepared a table comparing the two types of waistcoats:

Reflective vest Retroreflective waistcoat
Composition Predominance of fluorescent bands Predominance of reflective bands
Signalling Fluorescent material is seen at long distances when there is light Reflects in large proportions the lights pointed at it
When to use During the day, dawn, dusk and in moderate fog In situations with very little light and signalling

Buying criteria: Factors for choosing a reflective waistcoat

We have already given you a lot of valuable information about reflective waistcoats, but there is still one thing missing: Technical criteria that can help you choose a model! We have selected four:

Below, we go into more detail about each of them!


There are three basic colours commonly used in reflective waistcoats: fluorescent red, yellow and orange. All are suitable for absorbing ultra-violet lights and emitting waves large enough to be seen from afar. Once the waistcoat is one of the allowed colours, the choice becomes a matter of taste or regulation: Is there anything specific about what should be worn by a certain work sector (traffic wardens usually wear orange, for example)? If not, what is your personal preference?

Imagem mostra um homem trabalhando na construção civil e usando colete refletivo.

Orange is the most worn colour for many workers. (Source: stux/


There are two different types of waistcoats: one size fits all, and a variety of sizes, which need to be tried on.

One size fits all

The first ones usually have several adjustments so that they fit the most diverse biotypes. They are mainly indicated for companies that need to provide waistcoats to a large number of workers and when turnover is high. Different sized waistcoats tend to be more comfortable and fit better. They require less adjustment and are likely to be easier to wear. They are the right choice when buying for individuals or a few people.


Polyester is the most common fabric for reflective and retro reflective waistcoats. Synthetic, it is very durable and has the ability to retain the dye as one of its main features, a key factor for this type of equipment. Eventually, you will find waistcoats made with other fabrics, also synthetic. The important thing is to pay attention if the colour retention and reflection production are good enough.

Number of pockets

You will normally wear the reflective waistcoat over your clothes, but still, a good amount of pockets can make your job easier and keep necessary items handy. This is especially true for traffic wardens and urban construction workers. There are some more advanced models that have not only pockets, but holders that allow tools to be hung. They are excellent for those who need to have objects always at hand and cannot be in constant displacement or carrying suitcases. If that's your case, opt to pay more and have one of these! (Image source: Ricardo Gomez Angel/