Some folks may see workers wear safety vests over their workwear without a second thought, but these garments are specifically designed to serve a unique purpose, with dozens of different style vests to choose from. These vests are designed to keep workers visible in the field, so their colleagues can maintain a safe distance when engaging in potentially hazardous activities. They also help protect workers from motorists and nearby motor vehicles. High visibility vests feature bright neon colors in various patterns. The way the colors are displayed affects the level of visibility in the field. Use this guide to learn how to select a safety vest for the job at hand.
How to Select a Safety Vest
The most important factor to consider is how the vest is categorized based on industry standards. In the U.S., the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) rates hi-vis vests as either Roadway (R), Off-Road (O), or Public Safety (P). Type R provides additional daytime and nighttime visibility and is ideal for those working near highways and roads. Type O provides limited visibility and is suited for off-road workers, like those working in warehouses or factories. Type P is designed for public safety personnel, including EMS and police officers.
ANSI also rates each vest by class. ANSI classes range from Class 1 to Class 3. The higher the class, the greater the visibility. Class 2 increases visibility across longer distances, while Class 3 provides greater visibility across complex backgrounds. Class E PPE includes mesh pants, shorts, rain pants and bib pants, and do not provide adequate visibility on their own, but they can provide Class 3-level protection when worn with a Class 1 or Class 2 vest. Class 3 protection means enough reflective material gives a full silhouette outline of the wearer’s shape. Those working near moving traffic, railways, and emergency responders are commonly seen in Class 3 hi-vis clothing, since it gives them the most protection possible.
Workers should select the right class and type of vest based on work conditions.
Most safety vests typically come in fluorescent yellow or orange, but other colors may be available, including green, pink, red, and blue. These colors provide less visibility but can be suitable for low-risk work environments. Vests with greater visibility usually come with additional reflective tape or piping. The “X” pattern is considered the most visible. The vest color can also be used to indicate each worker’s role on the project, which can help increase efficiency in the workplace.
The vest can also be a mesh, solid material, or some combination of the two. Mesh can help workers stay cool on a hot day. This affects how much airflow can pass through the garment. Some vests can be made with self-extinguishing material or they can be flame resistant (FR), further protecting the worker from burns in case of a potential fire.
Comfort and Fit
Safety vests come in various sizes, usually from S to XXXL. The vest must fit over the person’s regular uniform, which may include heavy winter gear, without inhibiting their range of movement. The fabric shouldn’t be too loose to prevent it from snagging or getting caught in a piece of equipment.
Each vest has a closure mechanism, usually a zipper or a hook and loop. The zipper is more reliable and easier to use. The hook and loop fasten to one another to hold the vest together temporarily. A third option is the breakaway vest. The closure will immediately break open in an emergency without pulling the worker with it.
Radios and other life-saving equipment should be easily accessible. These items may be hard to access in an emergency if trapped beneath the vest. Some vests come with pockets and D-rings to help workers carry equipment.
Workers need to wear high-visibility safety vests to stay safe in the field. They are an essential part of every worker’s safety workwear. Contact PK Safety to find the right safety vest for your next project.