A doctor in Perth has issued a warning to tradies after a patient suffered first-degree burns from a reflective strip on his high-vis work shirt.

The 40-year-old environmental engineer went to the emergency department of Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital complaining of a painful red rash across his back.

Iona Vlad examined the man, who had noticed the burn when undressing at home after a day working outside in the sun, news.com.au reports.

The tradie had suffered a large first-degree burn from the reflective strip across his yellow high-vis safety shirt, Dr Vlad wrote in the latest issue of the Australian Medical Journal, out today.


"The patient … was required to wear (the shirts) throughout his working day (and) also reported that the high visibility tape on his shirt often becomes extremely hot when he works out in the sun," Dr Vlad said.

"He occasionally has to change position so the shirt does not touch his skin in that area."

This appears to be the first reported case of skin burns from the overheating of reflective tape in safety clothing, he said.

While the case wasn't life-threatening, it did cause discomfort for a few days. The burn was managed with emollient aloe vera cream and a simple analgesia.

"Retro-reflective tape is used on work clothing to increase the wearer's visibility to others, especially in the dark," Dr Vlad said.

"It usually consists of minute glass beads or prismatic elements encapsulated in a transparent film, which reflect light back towards its source."

He warned that workplaces requiring safety garments that include reflective tape should ensure they're not worn in very hot and sunny conditions — especially if the strip is in direct contact with the skin.

"Manufacturers should consider designing shirts that decrease direct contact between retro-reflective tape and skin, potentially by increasing the number or thickness of cloth layers under it," Dr Vlad said.