The United States has had standards for high-visibility garments since 1999. However, federal agencies like the Federal Highway Administration and U. S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration didn’t start requiring highway and road construction workers to start wearing these garments until 2009.
The reason for this requirement is simple. More workers are killed by moving vehicles and mobile equipment than by any other kind of worksite accident, according to the U. S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Increasing the visibility of workers on foot out to at least 1,000 feet gives drivers and operators more chance to stop or turn their vehicles and avoid accidents. High-visibility garments are designed to do exactly that.
Employers must supply high-visibility garments to all employees who need them. These garments must to be certified by either the manufacturer or a third-party laboratory to meet ANSI/ISEA 107-2010 standards, with further standards (ANSI/ISEA 207-2011) for emergency personnel and police.
These standards separate workers and the high-visibility garments that they should wear into three different classes, according to W.W. Grainger, Inc.:
- Class 1: “Workers where traffic does not exceed 25 mph and there is ample separation from the traffic.” These include shopping cart retrievers, warehouse employees, parking lot attendants, delivery truck drivers and anyone doing sidewalk maintenance.
- Class 2: “Workers who work near roadways where traffic exceeds 25 mph and workers who need greater visibility in inclement weather.” These include roadway construction, railway and utility workers, surveyors, school crossing guards, airport ground crews, emergency responderrs, parking and toll gate personnel and police directing traffic.
- Class 3: “Workers with high task loads in a wide range of weather conditions where traffic exceeds 50 mph.” This includes everyone from Class 2, more or less, as well as flaggers, vehicle operators and accident site investigators.
Each class of worker is paired with a class of high-visibility garment. Each class of garment is defined by the area of fluorescent and reflective material on it. 3M has a great graphic describing each class’s requirements in its document ANSI/ISEA 107-2010 Made Easy. We’ve reproduced this graphic below in its entirety.
Here’s some definitions for the terms in the above graphic.
- Background material: Colored, highly conspicuous but not reflective fluorescent material. Employers can choose from fluorescent yellow-green, fluorescent orange-red or fluorescent red for most of their employees and fluorescent yellow-green or fluorescent orange-red for flaggers.
- Retroreflective material: Material that reflects a large amount of light back in the direction from which it came.
- Combined-performance material: Material with the characteristics of background and retroreflective material. In other words, it’s fluorescent-colored and reflective.
- Class E: Pants or shorts with retroreflecitve material. When worn with Class 2 or Class 3 tops, the set is rated as Class 3.
In addition to the above table, all high-visibility garments must meet the following standards, according to 3M:
- Have all-around visibility with horizontal gaps of 1.97″ (50mm) or less.
- Have retroreflective bands that are wide enough for the class and have appropriate placement. Retroreflective logos, icons, text and other paterns can contribute to the total retroreflective area in the above table.
- Have retroreflective material either around the sleeves or 23.25 in² (150 cm²) of reflective material in the shoulder area. These give the wearer 180-degree visibility.
- Have enough separation between bands on the torso, sleeves and pants/shorts.
“ANSI/ISEA 107-2010.” International Safety Equipment Association. N.p., Jan. 2010. Web. 08 Aug. 2013. < http://www.safetyequipment.org/c/std107-2010.cfm >.
“ANSI/ISEA 107-2010 Made Easy.” 3M. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Aug. 2013. < http://multimedia.3m.com/mws/mediawebserver?6666660Zjcf6lVs6EVs66s1QnCOrrrrQ->.
“ANSI/ISEA 207-2011.” International Safety Equipment Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Aug. 2013. < http://www.safetyequipment.org/c/std207-2011.cfm >.
“ANSI Classes: Which Is The Right High Visibility Garment For You?” Classes of High Visibility Clothing. N.p., 2011. Web. 08 Aug. 2013. < http://www.unifirst.com/products/highvisibility/ansi/ansi_standards.html >.
Fairfax, Richard E. “Letter #20080829-8611 – 08/05/2009 – Whether Use of High-visibility Warning Garments by Construction Workers in Highway Work Zones Is Required.” U. S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 5 Aug. 2009. Web. 08 Aug. 2013. < https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS >.
“High-Visibility Clothing Standards – Quick Tips #153.” W. W. Grainger, Inc. N.p., 2012. Web. 08 Aug. 2013. < http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/static/high-visibility-clothing-standards-153.html >.
“Oregon OSHA Fact Sheet: High-visibility Safety Apparel – Unraveled.” Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration. N.p., 6. Web. 8 Aug. 2013. < http://www.cbs.state.or.us/osha/pdf/pubs/fact_sheets/fs42.pdf >.
“OSH Act of 1970 – SEC. 5. Duties.” U. S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Aug. 2013. < https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_id=3359&p_table=OSHACT >.
“OSHA Fact Sheet: Work Zone Traffic Safety.” U. S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Aug. 2013. < https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_Hurricane_Facts/work_xone_traffic_safety.pdf >.
“Standards for High-Visibility Safety Apparel: Frequently Asked Questions and Concerns.” International Safety Equipment Association, n.d. Web. 8 Aug. 2013. < http://www.safetyequipment.org/userfiles/File/Hi_Viz/hiviz-brochure2010-1up.pdf >.