How to Ensure Outdoor Worker Visibility
Understanding the different classes and types of high-visibility apparel and what jobs they're appropriate for decreases the risk of injury to outdoor workers.
Varying seasonal weather patterns can expose outdoor workers to several weather conditions in a single shift, and the accompanying changing visibility levels can increase their risk of not being seen by vehicle and equipment operators in work zones.
Companies can ensure that these workers remain visible on the job site throughout all conditions by following the appropriate ANSI/ISEA 107 standards for the work environment and providing them with the appropriate high-visibility safety apparel (HVSA). Only garments certified and labeled as ANSI/ISEA 107 are the accepted standards in the industry.
High-Visibility Garments: Types and Classes
There are three types of high-visibility garment, along with three performance classes.
Types are defined by the work environment the garments are suitable for, while classes are defined in terms of the amount of background and retro-reflective material required and the design attributes that are incorporated into the finished garment.
It is every company’s responsibility to perform a hazard assessment of the work environment, taking into consideration work activities, competing hazards, and other key factors. Once the assessment is complete, companies should inform their workers which type and class of high-visibility apparel they should wear.
ANSI Type O, Class 1: Off-Road
Type O provides the minimum amount of high visibility required for work zones where struck-by hazards are low and machinery and vehicles do not reach roadway speeds (see OSHA's Fatal Four to learn more about this and the other primary hazards in the construction industry).
Performance Class 1 offers the minimum amount of high visibility materials to differentiate the wearer from the features of a non-complex work environment and is only appropriate for off-road environments.
Those who need Type O, Class 1 apparel include:
- Workers retrieving shopping carts from parking areas
- Workers exposed to the hazards of warehouse equipment traffic
- Workers in oil and gas extraction, refineries, and mines
ANSI Type R: Roadways
Type R makes workers visually conspicuous both in daytime and nighttime, which makes it ideal for those who work near moving vehicles or equipment, whether on roadways and in construction zones (find out How to Create a Safe Work Zone Using Maintenance of Traffic).
Type R includes workers who are operating on or near public access roadways and are, therefore, required to comply with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).
Workers who need Type R, Class 2 or 3 apparel include:
- Roadway construction workers
- Survey crews
- Utility and railway workers
- Crossing guards
- Airport baggage handlers or ground crew
ANSI Type P: Public Safety and First Responders
Like Type R, Type P makes the wearer conspicuously visible during daytime and nighttime, which makes it suitable for anyone whose work exposes them to traffic on or near roadways. Type P provides options for first responders who have competing hazards or require access to special equipment.
Workers who need Type P, Class 2 or 3 apparel include:
- Law enforcement
- Fire fighters
- Emergency medical responders
Performance Class 2 is considered the minimum level of protection for workers exposed to vehicle traffic from roadways and temporary traffic control (TTC) zones. It has the potential to provide longer detection and identification distances and increase visual performance over Class 1.
Performance Class 3 provides more visibility to the wearer in both complex backgrounds and through a full range of movement, with background, retro-reflective, and combined performance materials on the sleeves and pant legs. Class 3 is minimum best practice for night work.
Note that a garment or vest without sleeves worn alone is not considered Class 3 protection.
ANSI Class E
Class E high visibility garments do not qualify as meeting the requirements of the standard when worn alone, but when it is worn with a Class 2 or Class 3 garment, the overall classification of the ensemble is Class 3. Supplemental Class E is comprised of high-visibility garments such as pants, bib overalls, shorts, and gaiters.
Keeping Workers Safe
Without question, HVSA keeps workers safer. Conducting a hazard analysis for each job and understanding the classes and types of high-visibility safety apparel required for them will decrease risk of injury.
Employees should check with a safety manager and company protocol to help determine which HVSA should be worn and when. Following ANSI/ISEA 107 standards and wearing the proper high visibility safety apparel can prevent injuries and fatalities.
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