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What is the difference between Type R, Type O, and Type P high-visibility safety vests?

By Joyce Wooley | Last updated: February 28, 2018
Presented by Radians

Visibility is a critical issue for worker safety, particularly when workers are performing tasks near moving vehicles or equipment. Struck-by incidents contributed to 804 construction worker fatalities between 2011 and 2015. Of these fatalities, 57 percent occurred in work zones, 114 were the result of being struck by a passenger vehicle, and 112 workers died after being struck by a truck.

This is where high-visibility safety gear comes in. By drawing attention to workers, hi-vis safety gear helps prevent on-the-job injuries and fatalities.

A hazard assessment should be done at every worksite to determine the risk of workers being hit by moving vehicles or equipment and the environmental conditions under which they are working. While the first line of defense is to reduce worker exposure to these risks, equipping workers with hi-vis safety apparel is an important step to protect against worksite accidents.


OSHA rules mandate that employees exposed to public vehicular traffic must be provided with and wear high-visibility vests or other suitable garments. But with several categories of hi-vis apparel, how do you know which to choose?

Type O

Type O high visibility apparel is Class 1 gear, which provides the minimum amount of reflective materials required to visually differentiate the wearer from non-complex backgrounds. For Type O gear to be appropriate, vehicle and equipment speeds should not exceed 25 mph and there should be ample separation between workers and vehicular traffic.

Applications where Type O hi-vis apparel may be appropriate:

  • Warehouse workers
  • Mining
  • PetroChem

Type R

This type of gear may be Class 2 or 3 safety apparel. Class 2 uses additional amounts of high visibility materials that may define the human form more effectively, while Class 3 offers greater worker visibility through a full range of body motions and where the background is more complex. A sleeveless garment (like a vest) cannot be considered Class 3.

Applications for Class 2 hi-vis safety apparel:

  • Roadway construction worker
  • Municipalities
  • Airline ramp personnel

Applications for Class 3 hi-vis safety apparel:

  • Flaggers
  • Department of Transportation
  • Night-time work
  • Municipalities or state work

Type P

Type P high visibility apparel may be Class 2 or 3 and provides visual conspicuity during both day and night operations. It is particularly well suited for emergency responders and law enforcement personnel who work in environments with exposure to traffic, including temporary traffic control zones. Type P hi-vis safety apparel provides additional options for workers who have competing hazards or require access to special equipment.

Applications where Type P apparel is suitable:

  • Police
  • Fire
  • EMS
  • Sheriff

There is no one right choice when it comes it selecting high visibility safety apparel – there’s only the right choice for you. Conducting an assessment of risks will give you a great starting point to figure out which type of gear is best suited for your application. Be sure to review ANSI 107-2015 visibility requirements to make sure you are compliant and your workers are safe.

Be sure to download our free guide: Understanding the New ANSI-ISEA 107-2015 Standard for High Visibility Apparel

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Written by Joyce Wooley | High Visibility / Outerwear Development Manager

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Joyce Wooley has more than two decades of experience in the apparel industry. She is recognized as an executive with vast experience in raw materials, product development, global sourcing, production management, factory standards, social compliance and supply chain management.

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