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3M presentation sparks new concept in high visibility police clothing

3M Europe : 01 July, 2006  (Company News)
A presentation given by 3M technical specialists at 3M Centre in Bracknell has initiated a brand new concept in high visibility policing at Hertfordshire Constabulary. Nick Barnes, Head of Procurement for Hertfordshire Constabulary, has joined forces with 3M, Hobson & Sons (London) Ltd and Monarch Textiles to develop a range of garments and accessories that dramatically improve the visibility and safety of officers in low light and dark conditions.
'It is easy to forget that the areas of reflective material dictated in EN471: 2003 The European Standard for High Visibility Workwear are minimum requirements,' says Nick Barnes. 'This project aims to take the visibility of officers a step further.'

Nick explained, 'The presentation took place in a large dark room where 3M used a 'luminance simulator' (simulating vehicle headlights in night time conditions) to demonstrate how various EN471:2003 compliant garments incorporating different configurations of reflective material are perceived by drivers when the wearers are carrying out typical road-side applications. Dependent on the positioning of the reflective material on the garments and the stance of the wearer; in some instances, it was extremely difficult to see the person at all. In other instances, it was difficult to differentiate between a human form and say, a piece of reflective road safety equipment.'

'The presentation brought home to me that the placement of the reflective markings on Class 2 and 3 garments currently worn by our officers only satisfied the minimum requirements of EN471:2003. With additional contoured reflective markings that more clearly defined the human shape, we could enhance the visibility and therefore improve the safety of officers at night or in low light conditions.'

Following the presentation, Nick sought first hand experience in one of Hertfordshire's toughest environments for visibility. He joined one of Hertfordshire Constabulary's Area Road Policing Squads during a typical night shift. 'Officers tend to move around, underneath and in and out of vehicles at incidents. In the control tests, although strips of reflective material on the current garments could be seen by drivers, an officer's head, arms and legs - and therefore his human shape, were invisible,' he reported.

Nick's first port of call was hat manufacturer, Hobson & Sons (London) Ltd, which has a five-year contract to supply Hertfordshire Police. Lawrence Orton, Contracts Manager at Hobson said, 'To achieve 360 conspicuity around the head, we replaced the traditional, navy blue and white chequer hat band ribbon with a navy ribbon onto which 3M Scotchlite Reflective Material 8725 silver transfer film was heat applied in a chequer design. Placed all the way round the hat, although the chequer ribbon still appears to be blue and white in the daytime; in the dark the effect of the silver reflective material is significant. Photographs taken during the trials are staggering - when wearing reflective garments in conjunction with a reflective hat, the human form can be instantly identified from all angles. As a result of the trials, the new high visibility hats will very shortly be standard issue to all uniformed officers within Hertfordshire Constabulary.'

Other garments and accessories currently being developed by Monarch Textiles, and on trial within the scheme include reflective gloves, trousers and tough, versatile 3-in-1 garments with strips of 3M Scotchlite Reflective Material around the cuffs and collar in addition to standard EN471 markings. Thanks to high-tech fabrics and garment components, the garments can repel engine oils, fluids and fuel and withstand the high temperature laundering required for thorough decontamination.

Nick concluded, 'The trials are going very well, and feedback from those involved is very encouraging. The knowledge, innovation and expertise of 3M has been fundamental in helping us to increase the safety of our officers. 3M's range of Scotchlite Reflective Materials not only conforms to the appropriate standards, it includes tapes and trims that offer speciality features such as high wash temperature durability, flame retardance, flexibility, comfort and versatility, to meet the challenges of new requirements and withstand the rigours of the job.'
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