The pedestrian reflector is a Finnish invention
There are many legends about how the reflector was invented, but this is the true story of how the reflector became a Finnish innovation.
In 1955, farmer Arvi Lehti (1912–1972) from Pertteli bought an injection moulding machine for his barn, which he used to produce e.g. plastic homewares and reflectors which could be installed at the back of trailers. With his friends in the Traffic Police, Arvi pondered whether the methods used to make trailers more visible in traffic could also be used on pedestrians. He had the idea to glue together two reflective panels for trailers and to use a safety pin and a piece of string to hang it from a jacket – the very first pedestrian reflector was born. This early version was fairly awkward and heavy, so it did not become popular.
Arvi Lehti died quite young, and his son, current managing director Taisto Lehti (born 1945) took over the business Talousmuovi Oy when he was only 25 years old. The business grew and turned into TALMU Oy, which at its peak employed 450 people. TALMU produced many kinds of plastic products, but Taisto always saw the reflector as his baby. The popularity of the reflector soared after Taisto brought galvano prisms over from England in the 70s, allowing the company to make reflectors in different shapes. The snowflake reflector, which has been called a Finnish classic, was designed by product designer Kalervo Suomela in 1973.
Taisto Lehti has had a strong influence on the Finnish culture of wearing reflectors; today half of all Finns wear a reflector. Now these same prismatic reflectors are exported to dozens of countries by Safety Reflector Finland Oy.