Hi-vis clothing is an affordable and effective way to keep workers out of harm's way.
Whether they’re doing roadwork or doing work on a construction site, workers need to be easily spotted. In low-stakes, slow-paced work environments, all that takes is a little bit of attentiveness, but on sites with lots of traffic and equipment, fast-moving vehicles with blind spots, or low-light conditions, workers without hi-vis gear might not be seen until it's too late.
The Associated General Contractors of America reported that between 2015 and 2016, 45 percent of highway contractors had at least one motor vehicle crash into their construction zone. When site workers are wearing highly visible workwear in bright, fluorescent colors, drivers are more likely to spot them early and keep a safe distance.
From lightweight vests and pants to thermal and waterproof jackets, hi-vis clothing comes in a wide variety of types to fit every need. To truly protect your workers, it’s important to understand how to select the right type for your particular work site.
Understanding High-Visibility PPE: What It Is and When It's Necessary
As the name implies, hi-vis protective clothing refers to garments that allow workers to be better seen by others. This type of PPE is required to ensure that drivers or heavy equipment operators – whether they’re on the road or inside a worksite – are well aware of the presence of pedestrian workers even in low-light conditions, such as early in the morning, after sunset, or overnight (find out How to Create a Safe Work Zone Using Maintenance of Traffic). In work environments where workers’ bodies might be obscured by things like construction barriers, materials, and trees, workers may also opt for hi-vis headwear.
Everyone knows hi-vis gear by its bright colors – fluorescent yellow-green, orange-red, and red. Those are the colors that are approved by the ANSI 107 standard, and not just because of their brightness. These three colors create a contrast against workers' surroundings and draw the attention of the human eye (see Your Options for Hi-Vis Apparel in Daylight and Low-Light Visibility to learn more).
To determine whether hi-vis safety gear is required (and what kind), employers or site supervisors should conduct a thorough hazard assessment. Consider the following factors:
- The nature of the work
- Work conditions (indoor vs. outdoor, temperature, traffic flow, and traffic volume)
- Lighting conditions and work environment (background colors and complexities)
- Exposure to heat or flames
- Traffic speeds and surface conditions
- Sightlines of vehicle operators (on and off the job site)
It’s important to remember that PPE is your last line of defense against workplace hazards. Every effort should be made to control hazards using engineering and administrative controls. For example, install barriers to separate workers from moving traffic where possible. Once those options have been exhausted, you can choose the hi-vis PPE that will make drivers more aware of the workers in the area.
Things to Consider When Selecting Hi-Vis Gear
There are a handful of important considerations that will help you choose the right high-visibility gear for your workers.
Larger hi-vis garments like jackets are obviously more visible than smaller ones like vests, so if your workers are going to be obscured by objects in the environment, opt for clothing with more coverage.
Garments with fluorescent striping around the entire body also provide excellent visibility from all directions.
As with other PPE, hi-vis garments must fit each individual correctly. It shouldn’t be baggy, but still comfortable to wear, even with other pieces of clothing underneath. It shouldn't be so tight that it restricts movement or creates discomfort (learn more in One Size Does Not Fit All When It Comes to Protective Clothing).
Make sure that other layers of clothing and equipment don’t cover the high-visibility material.
Color and Brightness
The color of your workers' gear should be determined by the conditions they'll be working in.
- Bright and fluorescent materials are excellent for daytime work
- In low light, even bright colors are difficult to see; fluorescence is necessary and reflective materials can also be helpful
- In dark conditions, workers require retroflective gear as fluorescent materials are ineffective at night
Type and Class
There are three types and three sub-classes of high-visibility safety wear, as defined by ANSI standard 107. Each is used for specific situations.
- Type O is for occupational workers who aren’t required to wear hi-vis PPE but may face struck-by hazards
- Type R is for occupational workers exposed to roadway traffic and moving vehicles or equipment
- Type P is for emergency workers (fire, police, EMS personnel) who face other potential hazards that require them to be able to access equipment on their person
- Class 1 is used when:
- Workers are adequately separated from traffic flow
- The environmental background is not complex
- Vehicles are traveling at 24 mph or less
- Examples: parking lot attendants, warehouse workers, delivery drivers
- Class 2 is used when:
- Workers are in close proximity to vehicle traffic
- Vehicle speeds range from 25 to 49 mph
- Conditions may include inclement weather and complex environmental backgrounds
- Examples: crossing guards, railway workers, airport baggage handlers, law enforcement personnel
- Class 3 is used when:
- Vehicle speeds are 50 mph or more
- Workers must be identifiable as a person and visible from 1,280 feet
- Examples: emergency responders, survey crews, road construction workers
Safety Standards to Remember
ANSI standard 107-2015 governs the use of high-visibility safety apparel and accessories. It focuses on apparel design, requirements for background and retroreflective materials, photometric and physical performance, and care labeling.
OSHA’s general duty clause is also applicable here. It requires employers to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. This includes providing the appropriate PPE (including high-visibility apparel, where applicable) to mitigate risks.
While high-visibility safety apparel is perhaps most often used by construction workers, many other industries can benefit from its use. In reality, any workers carrying out tasks in the vicinity of moving vehicles should be wearing hi-vis gear to remain compliant. It’s a simple, relatively inexpensive way to protect yourself or your workers – so what are you waiting for?
SJ32 Class 3 Color Blocked Hooded Sweatshirt
This SJ32-3 Type R, Class 3, Long Sleeve Hooded Sweatshirt with zipper closure and removable hood from Radians provides the warmth you need while keeping you visible. Need a little more warmth while on the job? The SJ32 can zip into the RW32 Rain Jacket as a liner to provide extra warmth.
Flame Resistant (FR) Safety Vest - FRMBCL2L
This FRMBCL2L flame-resistant safety vest by MCR Safety is made with GlenGuard® solid lime modacrylic/aramid blended fabric with FR reflective stripes so you can be seen and stay safe. With durable gray binding and an FR hook and loop front closure this ANSI Class 2 vest meets ASTM F1506 and conforms to NFPA 70E- HRC1 specifications with an Arc Rating of 5.4 cal/cm2.
VLG201 LEG GAITERS
These Cordova Mesh Leg Gaiters are ANSI/ISEA 107-2015 Class E Compliant, and feature lime mesh, two-tone contrasting tape for hi-vis safety and protection, There's three easy-to-use Hook & Loop Straps, and the Elastic at Both Ends ensure a good fit, as it's one size fits all.
Vizable FR Hi-Vis Hybrid Lined Zip Front Sweatshirt - Type R Class 3
Have great style, comfort and functionality with the VIZABLE® FR hi-vis hybrid zip front hoodie with liner. This hoodie is perfect for cold weather and it's made with comfortable fleece. Designed with rib knit cuffs and waistband for added comfort. Stay seen as this hoodie provides 360-degree visibility. For times that you need some added warmth, it features a unique waffle weave liner on the inside. Stay safe while working around a flame or arc flash hazard as the fabric is inherently flame-resistant and won't melt, drip or ignite.
Icon 3.1 ANSI/ISEA 107 Type R Class 3 Compliant Jacket
The Icon 3.1 premium ANSI compliant breathable and high visibility jacket from Tingley features polyurethane on 300 denier polyester. This hi-vis jacket is engineered to provide superior comfort and safety in the toughest work environments.
GloWear 8381 Type R Class 3 Performance 3-in-1 Bomber Jacket
This Class 3 Performance 3-in-1 Bomber Jacket features a rugged ripstop hi-vis outer shell to make sure you're always seen and safe, plus a zip-out wearable liner for added comfort. Tons of pockets for winter gear storage makes this the ultimate job site jacket you need to stay safe and get the job done.