From a safety or visibility perspective, it’s essential to prioritize safety items, and among them are fluorescent and retroreflective materials. While both serve the common goal of drawing attention to enhance safety, they each exhibit distinct characteristics. Here, we’ll highlight key differences between fluorescent and retroreflective materials. And of particular note is that retro reflective materials can also be fluorescent, as is seen by the images in this article. In the image below, for example, both materials are fluorescent and reflective.
Fluorescent materials set themselves apart from retroreflective counterparts by absorbing invisible ultraviolet light from sunlight. Special pigments within these materials then release the absorbed UV light as more visible light. This is similar to glow in the dark material. However, with fluorescence, light is re-released immediately, whereas photo-luminescent films release the light over time. So fluorescence is much more vivid and visible. This phenomenon occurs specifically in areas with natural light. Even in environments with limited natural light, fluorescent materials appear significantly brighter compared to non-fluorescent materials of the same color. They exhibit heightened brightness, especially during the transition from daylight to dusk or dawn, and offer excellent contrast against various backgrounds.
In contrast, retroreflective materials redirect light back toward its source, enabling drivers to perceive the reflected light from the material worn by an individual. This type of material excels in environments with subdued lighting. While retroreflective materials can reflect light in daylight, their performance is not as effective. Unlike fluorescent materials, they lack contrast in bright daylight conditions, making them less suitable for optimizing visibility in well-lit environments. In other words, straight reflective tape in standard colors is highly visible at night due to contrast. But in the daytime, fluorescent colors are more visible.
Materials That Are Both Fluorescent and Retro Reflective
The pictures in this article show films that are both Retro Reflective and Fluorescent. This enables the users of these films to enjoy the best of both worlds when it comes to visibility. Fluorescent Reflective Films are more visible in the daytime, and highly visible at night when reflecting. Lime Fluorescent is the most popular and is used extensively on fire apparatus across the country and around the world.
Understanding these distinctions is crucial for selecting the appropriate material based on the lighting conditions prevalent in a particular workplace. Whether prioritizing enhanced visibility in natural light or low-light settings, choosing between fluorescent and retroreflective materials depends on the specific safety requirements of the work environment. Sometimes a basic reflective material is all you need, and often a fluorescent color will suffice. But for the ultimate in visibility, it’s nice to know that fluorescent reflective offer both.
Steven Cole (Economics, MBA – University of West Florida , Business & Innovation – Stanford University) 25 years of experience in the reflective safety business. Specializing in vehicle accident and rear end collision reduction through increased visibility.