High Visibility Clothing for Visibility Hazards
What is High Visibility Clothing?
High visibility clothing describes protective garments used in settings where lack of visibility may be hazardous due to lighting conditions, moving vehicles and/or machinery, or plant processes. Depending on the application, you might need high visibility shirts, vests, outerwear, pants, or bib overalls – or a combination of garments.
In adherence to ANSI standards, high visibility clothing is usually made using fluorescent yellow or orange fabric and reflective tape.
Who Should Wear High Visibility Clothing
Personnel that wear high visibility clothing include:
- Those working on or around public roads in construction, traffic handling, etc.
- Those responding to emergency situations, including EMS, firefighters, and law enforcement.
- Those working in a warehouse setting where machinery is being operated.
- Those working in the oil and gas industry on refinery plants, in mines, and in oilfields.
- Those working in airport apron areas to refuel, load and unload baggage, and direct traffic.
To ensure the correct protection, some environments may require high visibility FR clothing.
When Should You Wear High Visibility Clothing?
For most conditions that require high visibility clothing, workers must always wear their protective garments on the job.
OSHA standards call for high visibility clothing when:
- Flagging traffic
- Excavating in or around cavities with nearby traffic
- Around work zones with exposure to struck-by dangers
If your working conditions include any of the above scenarios, you are more than likely required to wear some form of high visibility clothing on the job.
Types of High Visibility Clothing
ANSI standards identify three types of high visibility clothing:
Type O high visibility clothing provides visual enhancement for workers during daytime and nighttime conditions in environments where there is risk for struck-by hazards, such as moving vehicles or machinery. However, this does not include environments with roadway traffic.
Type R high visibility clothing differs from Type O in that it is intended to provide visual enhancement for workers who are exposed to traffic from public access highways and/or construction zones during daytime and nighttime conditions.
Type P high visibility clothing is intended for use by emergency responders and law enforcement personnel in situations where they are exposed to traffic from public roadways, construction zones, or other moving equipment in daytime or nighttime conditions.
Classes of High Visibility Clothing
According to ANSI standards, high visibility clothing can also be classified in four ways:
- Performance Class 1 offers the lowest level of protection and minimum amounts of high visibility elements. This classification is appropriate for use in Type O environments.
- Performance Class 2 include high levels of high visibility elements than Performance Class 1 and is appropriate for use in Type R environments.
- Performance Class 3 garments are made with a higher amount of high visibility materials to be used in extremely complex work environments where an individual’s entire body requires elevated visibility.
- Supplemental Class E is used as support in situations that require high visibility clothing but should never be worn alone, as it does not meet safety standards without the presence of other high visibility garments.
High Visibility FR Clothing
Do I Need High Visibility FR Clothing?
In some environments, you may be required to wear high visibility clothing that is also flame resistant, or high visibility FR PPE.
High visibility clothing is a necessity when workers are around moving vehicles or machinery and/or in conditions that require better visibility. FR garments are required when there is threat of exposure to flash fire or arc flash.
When Do I Need High Visibility FR Clothing?
High visibility FR clothing offers additional protection for workers who may encounter heat, open flame, or sparks that can result in flash fire or arc flash.
A combination of high visibility and FR elements should be present for workers who:
- Work in the oil and gas industries
- Work around electrical elements, such as lineman or electricians
- Work on site at chemical plants
ANSI 107-2020 is the standard set by the American National Standards Institute that defines the working conditions that require high visibility clothing with certain performance requirements, including “color, retroreflection, the recommended configuration, and more.”
OSHA policy speaks to two situations when high visibility clothing is required for workers. Specifically, when they are working as flaggers or when they are exposed to “public vehicular traffic in the vicinity of excavations.”
ISO 20471 is an international standard that details the requirements and testing methods necessary to manufacture high visibility clothing in terms of material durability and capacity to increase wearer visibility.
For high visibility clothing to comply with ISO 20471, manufacturers must meet standards for:
- The amount of reflective material on the garment
- The color of garment fabric (yellow, orange, or red)
- The placement of reflective materials on the garment