Imported: 21 Feb '17 | Published: 01 Mar '05
USPTO - Utility Patents
A high visibility safety garment for wearing by an individual exposed to a higher than normal risk of injury from vehicular traffic. The safety garment complies with the visibility requirements of a published standard such as the American National Standards Institute for High Visibility Safety Apparel. The safety garment has one or more high visibility safety stripes that encircle the torso. The safety stripe is formed of a plurality of separate but closely spaced stripe segments in a generally repetitive pattern that is substantially continuous for the length of the stripe. The stripe segments are formed of a retroreflective material. The stripe segments occupy a portion of the total area of the stripe sufficient to impart to the stripe a coefficient of retroreflectivity that meets or exceeds that required by the standard being addressed for the safety garment.
This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/356,704 filed Feb. 13, 2002.
The invention pertains to high visibility apparel worn by persons engaged in work activity such as road repair where they are subject to a higher than normal risk of injury from vehicular traffic.
Pedestrians or others subject to traffic hazards typically wear one or more high visibility items of apparel. This includes, for example, signalmen standing watch along the side of a road, persons engaged in road construction or maintenance, emergency vehicle personnel, survey crews, law enforcement personnel, and a host of others. This group of individuals is in need of protection from inherent traffic hazards of low visibility regardless of the time of day. These hazards are intensified by the often complex and varying backgrounds found in many occupations subjecting the person to traffic, especially those involving all modes of traffic control, construction, equipment operation and vehicle roadway traffic. The major issue involves situations in which objects are visible but are not consciously recognized by the vehicle operator within sufficient time to take corrective action to avoid an accident.
Various standards have been proposed and adopted addressing the need for high visibility safety apparel to be worn by persons subject to vehicular hazard. For example, various states have adopted standards for safety apparel to be worn by maintenance workers on state highways. Various countries can have their own standards. Such standards typically dictate minimum coverage area and placement of highly reflective material on safety apparel to be worn by the persons subject to the traffic hazards.
Particularly prominent among these standards in the United States are those adopted by the American National Standards Institute which have been published by the Safety Equipment Association in publication ANSI/ISEA 107-1999 entitled American National Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel, incorporated herein by reference (the “ANSI Standard”). The ANSI Standard dictates performance requirements for high visibility safety apparel, capable of signaling a user's presence in a conspicuously visible manner under any light conditions by day and under illumination by vehicle headlights in the dark.
Examples of such safety apparel garments are vests, tee shirts, ponchos and waistcoats. The ANSI Standard contemplates that the garment has a background material that is a highly conspicuous colored fluorescent material. This background material will frequently comprise the garment body. The ANSI Standard further contemplates that a retroreflective material be attached to the garment and used in conjunction with the background material. A retroreflective material is one having the ability to return a substantial portion of incident light in the direction of origination of the light.
The ANSI Standard specifies three classes of high visibility safety apparel, according to the intended use of the garment, progressing from class one which is the most lenient, to class three. Class one, for example, includes garments to be worn by delivery vehicle drivers; class two, emergency response personnel; and class three, roadway construction personnel exposed to traffic exceeding 50 mph. For each class, there is specified for the garment a minimum surface area of background material, and a minimum surface area on the garment of retroreflective material. The current requirements are shown below:
For all classes, the Standard requires that torso covering garments have a contiguous area of retroreflective material encircling the torso placed in such a manner to provide 360° visibility of the wearer. This is commonly interpreted to refer to a horizontal band or stripe encircling the torso having a minimum width of 50 mm for a class 3 garment, and 35 mm for a class two garment. A similar requirement applies to sleeves and trouser legs.
In addition, the ANSI Standard has a specification for the photometric performance of the retroreflective material. This is a measure of the efficiency of the retroreflective material in returning light to its source. It is expressed in terms of a coefficient of retroreflection (R).
The conventional approach to providing safety apparel with adequate visibility both before and after ANSI Standard's inception, and continuing to be used to meet the ANSI Standard, is to apply a continuous solid stripe of retroreflective material to the garment. Such a continuous stripe imparts an undesirable measure of rigidity to the garment. The retroreflective material does not bend as readily as the underlying fabric. This gives the garment a stiff look and feel. A solid stripe impedes heat loss from the body of the wearer of the garment. This is a comfort consideration in warm weather.
According to the present invention there is provided such a high visibility safety garment for wearing by an individual exposed to hazardous vehicular traffic which is constructed to comply with criteria of selected published and acknowledged standards with respect to the visibility and reflectivity of the entire garment ensemble, for example the ANSI Standard for a class 1, 2 or 3 garment. The garment can be a vest, jacket, bib, tee shirt or such other garment. The garment includes a garment base that has a background material that is a high visibility fabric such as a highly conspicuous colored fluorescent material. The garment has one or more highly visible safety stripes fixed on the base extending around the base positioned to horizontally encircle the torso of an individual when wearing the garment. The garment can also have stripes with vertical components that extend over the shoulders of the individual.
The invention includes such a garment having one or more reflective stripes or band images that are formed of disconnected but closely spaced retroreflective material segments whereby the composite stripe image complies with the current or revised ANSI/ISEA 107-1999 Standard or with such other current standard being addressed.
The safety stripe has a width defined between parallel top and bottom boarders that are coextensive with the length of the stripe and define a stripe area. The stripe is formed of a plurality of separate but closely spaced stripe segments in a generally repetitive pattern continuous for the length of the stripe. The stripe segments are formed of a retroreflective material that has a retroreflective coefficient or index value (RA). The exposed area encompassed by the stripes is equal to at least the minimum value dictated by the ANSI Standard or such other standard being addressed.
The stripe consisting of the combined retroreflective segment and non-segment areas has a composite retroreflectivity index (RB) that is less than that of the retroreflective material alone (RA). The reduction relationship is linear. For example, if the retroreflective segment area of the stripe constitutes 50% of the total stripe area, the retroreflectivity of the stripe will be 50% of that of the retroreflective material, or RB=RA/2. The value of RB purposefully meets the minimum retroreflectivity criteria for the ANSI Standard or such other standard being addressed. This effectively dictates the minimum coverage requirement of the surface area covered by the retroreflective segments compared to the total surface area of the stripe.
Put another way, by design the ratio of the surface area of the stripe segments to the total stripe area is made to be high enough so that when multiplied by the retroreflective index of the segment material, the resultant index complies with that of the standard being addressed.
The stripe of disconnected but closely spaced stripe segments resembles the traditional continuous stripe usually found on high visibility safety apparel. The approaching observer recognizes the garment as an item of high visibility safety apparel of the type commonly worn by road construction workers or others, and reacts accordingly as by slowing down or driving with increased vigilance.
The invention also includes a graphic transfer device for the fabrication of high visibility safety garments according to the invention. The graphic transfer device carries the disconnected segment stripe image on it for transfer to the safety garment.
The discontinuous safety stripe is less rigid or stiff as compared to a continuous stripe of material. The garment has greater flexibility with more supple feel. The fabric more easily bends resulting in a better fit. The spacing between the retroreflective material segments permits the escape of heat from the body of the wearer. The disconnected segments can be formed in an attractive design. Indicia such as corporate identification, a company logo, a fanciful design or the like can be included. The segments can be diagonal bars in a hash-mark style of design; chevrons; spherical or elliptical arcs; or other designs.
Referring to the drawings, there is shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 a high visibility safety garment indicated generally at 10 being worn by an individual indicated in phantom at 11 in FIG. 1. The garment 10 shown is configured as a vest although the particular type of garment is not critical to the invention. The garment could be a jacket, tee shirt, bib, poncho, coverall or other such apparel item commonly worn as a safety garment having suitable safety markings.
Vest 10 has a base 12 that is formed at least partially of a suitable background material. The background material is typically a colored fluorescent material that is highly conspicuous and emits optical radiation at wavelengths longer than those absorbed. Fluorescent material enhances daytime visibility, especially and dawn and dusk, and is usually red, red-orange or lime-yellow in color.
Base 12 has the usual vest configuration with front panels 14, 15 that come together at front edges 14a, 15a, and are connected to a back section 16. Front edges 14a, 15a can have suitable means for fastening them together. Shoulders 18, 19 extend over the shoulders of the individual 11. The sides of vest 10 have arm openings 21, 22.
Vest 10 has a plurality of high visibility safety stripes. A first safety stripe is comprised as a horizontal safety stripe 24 attached to base 12 and extending horizontally around it so as to horizontally encircle the torso of the wearer and be visible 360° about the wearer of the garment. Horizontal safety stripe 24 is located toward but spaced above the lower edge of base 12.
Vest 10 has second and third safety stripes 25, 27 that are generally vertical and extend from the front panels 14, 15 on base 12, over shoulders 18, 19 to the back section 16.
An enlarged section of the horizontal stripe 24 is shown in FIG. 3, and also in FIG. 4. As can be seen in FIG. 3, stripe 24 is comprised of a plurality of stripe segments 29 that are disconnected from one another but closely spaced. The stripe segments 29 are separated by non-segment gaps or spaces 30. Stripe 24 has a top edge boarder 32 and a bottom edge boarder 33. Boarders 32, 33 define the stripe area. Segments 29 and spaces 30 are confined between the boarders 32, 33.
The segments 29 are closed geometric figures arranged in a repeating segment-space pattern. In the example of FIGS. 1 through 4, the segments are parallelograms. The pattern is one of parallel, spaced apart parallelograms in a pattern sometimes known as a hash mark pattern. The segments are spaced apart by the spaces 30. In this example the segments are completely disconnected. The spaces 30 are open at the top and bottom boarders 32, 33.
The segments 29 are formed of retroreflective material. Retroreflection, as opposed to mirror reflection or diffuse reflection, occurs when a high percentage of radiant energy is returned back in the direction from which it came, and over a wide variety of angles from which the material is being struck. A retroreflective material has the property to reflect light directly back to the light source through a wide range of entrance angles. In particular, it will reflect a vehicle headlight back to the vehicle. An example of a retroreflective material is shown in U.S. Pat. No. 6,110,558 issued Aug. 29, 2000 and incorporated herein by reference. The efficiency of a retroreflective material in returning light to its source is indicated by its coefficient of retroreflectivity. The coefficient of retroreflectivity is referred to herein as “R”.
Stripe segments 29 serve to reflect light from vehicle headlights back to the vehicle to alert the vehicle driver as to the presence of the work person. Stripe segments 29 can be bonded, glued, sewn or otherwise suitably fastened to the base 12. The retroreflective material of stripe segments 29 has a coefficient or retroreflection indicated herein as “RA.”
Vest 10 is constructed to comply with visibility standards according to the current ANSI Standard. Vest 10 could as well be constructed according to some other acknowledged and accepted set of visibility standards for high visibility safety garments. An example of such standards is the ANSI Standard referenced above, and within that standard, the criteria for class 3 garments. There can be other such standards such as international standards, European standards or revised ANSI standards. An example is European standard EN471. The various standards are performance standards that are subject to revision from time to time. The invention as described herein is not limited to addressing currently existing standards, but standards as may be revised in the future.
The standard to be addressed will specify a minimum surface area of background material, which will be represented as “Bmin.” The standard will typically have a criteria of a minimum surface area of high visibility safety stripe or stripes. This will be referenced herein as “Amin.” The standard will typically specify a minimum coefficient of retroreflectivity for the safety stripe. This will be referenced herein as “Rmin.” For example the current ANSI Standard for a class 3 garment specifies a minimum area of background material of Bmin=1240 square inches; safety stripe area Amin=310 square inches; and photometric performance Rmin which varies according to the observation angle and entrance angle of the light.
The current ANSI Standard for a class 2 garment specifies Bmin=775 square inches; and Amin=201 square inches. For both class 1 and 2 garments Rmin is specified by Tables 5 and 6 of the publication American National Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel, ANSI/ISEA 107-1999 published by The Safety Equipment Association and approved Jun. 1, 1999 by the American National Standards Institute, Inc., which tables are incorporated herein by reference.
The standard can also specify the minimum width of the safety stripes and the minimum distance of the lowest horizontal safety stripe from the lower edge of the garment. For example, with respect to the current ANSI Standard, the minimum stripe width is 50 mm for a class 3 garment and 35 mm for class 2 garment. The minimum distance of the lowest safety stripe from the lower edge of the garment is 50 mm.
Criteria specified by the various standards can vary from one standard to another and are subject to revision. For example the current ANSI/ISEA 107-1999 is expected to be revised shortly to ANSI/ISEA 107-2003 and is subject to revision after that (collectively called the ANSI/ISEA 107 Standard herein). For this reason the criteria recited herein are expressed symbolically.
Base 12 of vest 10 has a surface area of background material. The amount of this surface area is referenced herein as “Bbk.” Vest 10 has a surface area of background material such that Bbk is equal to or greater than Bmin. (Symbolically expressed as Bbk≧Bmin). The safety stripes of vest 10 have a surface area “Astripe” such that Astripe is equal to or greater that Amin. (Symbolically expressed as Astripe≧Amin). The stripe has a coefficient of retroreflection “RB” which is a composite of the stripe segments and the spaces. The stripe segments and spaces are deliberately sized and spaced such that the composite or resultant coefficient of retroreflectivity RB for the safety stripe is equal to or greater than Rmin. (Symbolically stated, RB≧Rmin).
The surface area of the safety stripe Astripe is calculated as the product of the width of the stripe (the distance between the top and bottom boarders 32, 33) and the length of the stripe. The stripe area consists of the area of the segments, “Aseg” and the area of the spaces, “Aspace.” The coefficient of retroreflectivity RA of the segment material is by design somewhat higher than the standard minimum Rmin. There is a linear relationship between the surface area of the stripe occupied by the segment material and the composite retroreflectivity coefficient of the stripe. The relationship is Rstripe=RA×(Aseg/Astripe). For example if the segments 29 occupy 75% of the stripe area, and the spaces occupy the other 25%, then the composite coefficient of retroreflectivity Rstripe is 75% of the coefficient of retroreflectivity of the segment material alone. The value of Aseg can be decreased to the point where Rstripe=Rmin. In order to meet the criteria of the standard being addressed, the safety stripes of vest 10 have a segment area Aseg such that Rstripe≧Rmin. This enables a maximization of the space area of the stripe.
By way of more specific example, Table 5 of the ISEA document American National Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel (ANSI/ISEA 107-1999) shows a minimum required value of a coefficient of retroreflectivity Rmin=300 (measured in units of candelas per lux per square meter). A stripe material can have, by way of example, a coefficient of retroreflectivity value of RA=580. The ratio of Rmin to RA is 0.52 indicating that at least 52% of the stripe area must be occupied by the retroreflective material thereby permitting up to 48% of the stripe area to be occupied by the spaces in order to be in compliance with the standard.
The spacing between the segments increases the flexibility of the garment and adds to the supple feel of the garment. It enables greater heat loss through the garment. It also enables a more attractive design of the garment. The permitted area between retroreflective segments of the safety stripe is limited by the relationship Rseg≧Rmin.
FIG. 5 shows an alternative embodiment of a high visibility safety garment 40 configured as a jacket having a body 41 and sleeves 42, 44. A high visibility safety stripe 45 is affixed to the garment positioned to extend around the torso. Additional high visibility safety stripes 46, 47 extend around the sleeves and are positioned to be in alignment with the stripe 45 when the sleeves are dropped to the side of the jacket.
The garment is configured to comply with an acknowledged standard for such garments. It has a background material area of Bbk which is equal to or greater than Bmin. The safety stripe 45 has an area Astripe which is equal to or greater than Amin. The safety stripes are comprised of separate substantially disconnected stripe segments of a retroreflective material, separated by spaces. The area of the stripe that is occupied by the stripe segments is large enough to satisfy the relationship that Rstripe is greater than or equal to Rmin.
FIG. 6 shows a variety of different configurations of stripe segments for safety stripes for use in connection with high visibility safety garments of the invention. From left to right in FIG. 6, the first two designs are segments of different chevron sizes. The next is a pattern of crosses. The following is a design of small, spaced apart pentagon figures. The next is a repeating pattern of arc segments. The last is a hash-mark pattern. In each of the examples spaces between the stripe segments are open between the stripe boarders. It may be seen that the segment pattern need not necessarily be symmetrical. For example, a company logo could be imbedded in the design.
FIG. 9 shows a safety garment according to the invention comprised as a tee shirt 58. Tee shirt 58 has a horizontal torso encircling stripe 59 as previously described, and a pair of parallel vertical over-the-shoulder stripes 60. The horizontal stripe 59 includes identifying indicia 61 between the upper and lower boarders, shown in the example of FIG. 9 as corporate identification. Indicia 61 could also be fashioned as a corporate logo, a fanciful design, or the like. Indicia 61 is comprised of spaced apart characters of retroreflective material complementary to the flexible attributes of stripe 59. Indicia 61 is purposefully designed so as not to diminish the retroreflectivity characteristics of the stripe 59 below the standard being addressed.
FIGS. 7 and 8 show a graphic transfer device according to the invention for use in fabrication or construction of a high visibility safety garment as described herein that complies with the ANSI Standard or such other standard being addressed.
A graphic transfer device is indicated generally at 50 in FIGS. 7 and 8. Transfer device 50 has a backing 51 or sturdy paper or other equivalent material. A layer of retroreflective optical elements or beads 56 is adhered to one surface of the backing 51. See, for example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,153,128 issued Nov. 28, 2000 to Lightle et al. disclosing an example of such retroreflective beads.
Adhesive strips 54 are located on the surface of bead layer 56 opposite backing 51. Adhesive strips 54 can be heat activated. Adhesive strips 54 can have an adhesive formulated from polyvinyl chloride homopolymer resin, phthalate esters platicizer, fumed silica, trimethoxysilylpropyl silane, epoxy resin and copolyester in proportions, respectively, of 30-40, 30-40, 5-10, 2-4, and 10-20. Strips 54 are laid out in a pattern that corresponds to the intended safety stripe pattern of a finished high visibility safety garment. In the example shown, the adhesive strips are laid out in a diagonal hash-mark pattern.
FIG. 7 shows that adhesive strips 54 are separated by spaces 55 and form a stripe pattern 52. In use the transfer device 50 is placed against the fabric of the safety garment under construction with the adhesive strips contacting the fabric. Heat is applied to the transfer device to activate the adhesive. The adhesive sticks to the garment fabric and carries with it corresponding portions of bead layer 56. The remainder of bead layer 56 stays on backing 51 as waste product upon removal of the backing 51 from the fabric. The bead layer portion adhering to the fabric forms the retroreflective stripe pattern on the garment.
Referring again to FIG. 7, the area of the stripe pattern is the sum of the area of the adhesive strips and the area of the spaces between them. The bead material has a retroreflectivity coefficient of RA. The adhesive strip occupies an area of the stripe pattern of Aadh. The stripe pattern has an area of Apattern. The value of Aadh is sufficiently large such that RA×(Aadh/Apattern) ≧Rmin. In other words the ratio of the bead layer area that will transfer to the garment, to the total area of the stripe pattern being transferred, is large enough that the resultant coefficient of retroreflection will equal or exceed the minimum required by the standard.