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When do I need high-visibility safety apparel?

By Jessica Barrett | Last updated: December 27, 2018

For workers on job sites where traffic is a concern, there’s one question that tends to be paramount over all others: how well can others see you?

There are various applications that require high-vis PPE, but the largest group is roadway construction workers. During peak season, as much as 20 percent of the highway system in the United States is under construction. Other workers who may require high-vis PPE include parking attendants, warehouse workers, crossing guards, and emergency responders (learn about How to Ensure Outdoor Worker Visibility).

High-visibility safety apparel is of critical importance any time that workers cannot easily be seen from a distance. And that doesn’t just mean during evening hours – visibility is often impaired during the day, especially in inclement weather like rain, fog, or snow (read about Daylight vs. Low Light Visibility: The Hi-Vis Apparel Options you Need).


In terms of official safety standards, OSHA specifies that road and construction traffic poses an obvious and well-recognized hazard to work zone employees. OSHA standards require that these employees wear high-visibility safety apparel when:

  • They are working as flaggers; or
  • They are exposed to public vehicular traffic in the vicinity of excavations

However, OSHA’s General Duty Clause also kicks in here, requiring employers to provide hi-vis PPE to employees working near recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious injury or death. This includes not just public traffic but also worksite vehicles like dump trucks and cranes.

Remember that not all high-visibility apparel is the same. There are three classes of garments, each of which is appropriate for different circumstances. The best way to determine what you or your workers need is to conduct a thorough hazard assessment to understand the nature of the hazards and then seek out hi-vis safety apparel that will help mitigate those specific risks.

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PPE Hi-Vis

Written by Jessica Barrett

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Jessica is a freelance writer and editor from Toronto, Canada. She specializes in creating content for nonprofits and has written for organizations working in human rights, conservation, education, and health care. She loves traveling and food, speaks Spanish, and has two dogs, one of whom she rescued while living in Mexico.

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