If you or your employees are working in conditions with low light or poor visibility and are not wearing appropriate high visibility clothing, the risk of being struck my moving equipment or vehicles is much higher than when you are. Hi-vis garments include vests, shirts, jackets, coveralls and rainwear made with yellow-green, orange-red, or red ANSI-compliant fabric. These pieces of high visibility workwear can also have additional heat transfer reflective tape on arms, chest, legs, waist, and/or back areas. The specific function of high visibility clothing is to alert drivers of your presence on the site as early as possible, so they have more time to react and prevent an accident.
The American National Standard for High-Visibility Apparel (ANSI/ISEA 107-2015) provides guidelines for road construction, railway and utility workers, law enforcement, emergency response personnel, field surveyors, and airport crews.
Daylight Visibility vs Low-Light Visibility
The need to be seen while working in any lighting conditions and against any complex backgrounds is recognized as a critical issue for worker safety.
To be compliant with the ANSI standard, the material that hi-vis clothing is made of must be in one of the following three colors: yellow-green, orange-red or red. Fabrics that maintain fluorescent qualities after washing include polyester, nylon, and acrylic. While the fluorescent material is effective during the day, it doesn’t provide much of a visibility improvement for low light periods and at night. That is why OSHA requires that high visibility garments also be fitted with retro-reflective components, such as heat transfer reflective tape. While fluorescent fabric improves daytime visibility, reflective tape shoots light back at the source in the absence of natural light. When combined, these two applications can significantly improve visibility in a 360 degrees radius.
Different situations require different levels of visibility. Reflective vests are placed into three different HVSA types for uses, and performance classes for the level of visibility.
HVSA-High Visibility Safety Apparel Type:
- Type O: off–road use,
- Type R: roadway use,
- Type P: public safety, emergency/incident responders use.
The distinction between types lies under the required minimum amount of background material. Hi-vis pants, bib overalls, shorts, gaiters are non-compliant if worn alone. Optional high visibility accessories, such as headwear, gloves, arm/leg bands are also non-compliant if worn alone.
ANSI Performance Class Definitions:
- Class 1 (traffic speed does not exceed 25 mph): enhanced visibility workwear for parking service attendants, workers in warehouses with equipment, shopping cart retrievers, sidewalk maintenance workers and delivery vehicle drivers.
- Class 2 (traffic speeds exceed 25 mph): clothes for railway workers, school crossing guards, parking and toll gate personnel, airport ground crews and law enforcement personnel.
- Class 3 (traffic speed exceeds 50 mph): garments that are made with the most reflective material to provide the highest level of visibility for roadway construction personnel and vehicle operators, utility workers, survey crews, emergency responders, railway workers and accident site investigators.
The distinction between performance classes lies under the specified minimum design requirements for the background materials, retro-reflective and combined performance materials, and the width of reflective materials.Use the table below to understand Fabric and Reflective Requirements Broken Down by Type and Class:
|HVSA Garment Type||O||R||R||P||P|
|ANSI Performance Class||1||2||3||2||3|
|Background Material Amounts||217 in²||775 in²||1240 in²||450 in²||775 in²|
|Reflective Material Amounts||155 in²||201 in²||310 in²||201 in²||310 in²|
|Width Minimums of Reflective Material||1"||1.38" (1" for split trim designs)||2" (1" for split trim designs)||2" (1" for split trim designs)||2" (1" for split trim designs)|
Challenges of Using and Maintaining Hi-Vis Gear:
- Heat management. Hi-vis clothing often feels warm since it is made of polyester, nylon or acrylic. Mesh and cotton may be favored by workers in warm climates, but cannot be made bright enough to be ANSI compliant.
- Maintaining high visibility. Over time and especially with outdoor work, high visibility clothing can get dirty or stained. Dirty retro-reflective materials provide much lower visibility, and in turn will no longer be ANSI compliant with the same high visibility class safety rating. Keeping your high visibility apparel clean is a must, and knowing when to replace it is just as important.
- High visibility and FR. It is hard for manufacturers to produce a fluorescent fabric that also is flame-resistant, an important issue for many occupations, such as utility workers who need both types of protection. Finding these types of garments will be easier as technology improves in the manufacturing of new materials for safety apparel.
Keep in mind that enhanced visibility garments are not the same as high visibility garments. For instance, regular apparel having just a reflective tape is called an enhanced visibility garment. This type of clothing typically is non-ANSI-compliant and may be used only for workers in low-risk areas and in non-complex work environments. Performance Class 2 or 3 meet the requirements of the ANSI Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel and Headwear. Construction, maintenance, survey, landscaping, towing, paving, flagging, emergency, and utility workers are required to wear certified Class 2 or Class 3 high visibility gear.
Don’t be invisible while working in a dangerous work area, wearing proper hi-vis safety clothing will prevent accidents and save lives.