As useful as they are, however, there are a few things that we tend to overlook when it comes to purchasing high visibility workwear and equipment, which might affect how useful this type of clothing can be.
Adhering to international standards
Although the average person might look at a high visibility vest or jacket and see just a reflective silver line and a really bright color, high visibility work clothes are actually designed and manufactured based on a set of standards and guidelines that define the reflectivity and visibility of the clothes for different working conditions. One of the most widely used of these standards is the ANSI/ISEA 107-2015, first established in the United States by the American National Standards Institute and the International Safety Equipment Association in 2008.
The guidelines in ANSI/ISEA 107-2015 were set to help ensure that high visibility work apparel is capable of providing the necessary features so that workers wearing them are more visible to others, especially during less than ideal working conditions such as in low light or inclement weather. These features do have variations as well, and are categorized in ANSI/ISEA 107-2015 into three Types and five Performance Classes.
Meeting specifications: clothing types
High visibility clothing is given a type based on the environment in which it is designed to be used in. These types help dictate the performance classes of the apparel. The three types outlined in ANSI/ISEA 107-2015 are as follows:
Type O (Off-Road)
Type O high visibility clothing is designed to make users more visible to others while working in environments outside or near roads that may still pose a risk of collision with heavy machinery, falling objects, or other people. These work environments are more controlled than those in the other types, and heavy machinery and vehicles often move about at a slower pace. Examples of these work environments include:
- Construction sites
- Parking lots
Type O high visibility garments only come in a Class 1 performance level to reflect that.
Type R (Roadway)
Type R high visibility clothing is designed to be worn by workers operating in environments that are exposed to a large amount of vehicular traffic, and often at higher speeds. Employees who work in and around roadway areas will need high visibility equipment that is built to the Type R standard, such as:
- In road and highway construction
- Security personnel for schools and parking lots
- Airport ground crew workers
The more hazardous environments intended for Type R high visibility clothing use means it comes in Class 2 and Class 3 performance specifications.
Type P (Public Safety)
Type P high visibility garments are, as their name implies, intended to be used by public safety personnel that need to be easily visible while working in hazardous environments. Examples of these types of safety personnel include
- Police officers
- Emergency medical services
- Other first responders at scenes of accidents or disasters
Like Type R clothing, Type P high visibility garments are required to be made to Class 2 or Class 3 specifications.
Meeting specifications: performance classes
Performance classes, meanwhile, define what kind of reflective material and how much of that material is required to be on any given piece of high visibility work apparel.
Performance Class 1
The specifications for Performance Class 1 apparel requires the bare minimum detailed in ANSI/ISEA 107-2015 and is only appropriate for use in Type O garments.
Performance Class 2
Performance Class 2 garments require the use of more retroreflective material to help others to see the wearer better, and is the minimum requirement for Type R and Type P high visibility clothing.
Performance Class 3
Performance Class 3 is the most demanding of the classes and is designed to allow the wearer to be clearly seen from any angle in most - if not all - operating environments, and as such requires the largest amount of reflective material.
The remaining two performance classes of high visibility wear are composed of Class E, a supplemental performance class for legwear such as pants, overalls, and gaiters, and a performance class for "optional high visibility accessories" such as safety hats, work gloves, and leg or arm bands. Garments that fall into these performance classes are meant to be worn in conjunction with high visibility vests and jackets.
Although we've just talked about the many types and classifications of high visibility work clothes, one should keep in mind that simply wearing safety garments with a high specification standard doesn’t mean you’re getting the ideal amount of safety from those clothes.
The goal of high visibility clothing is to ensure that workers can be seen clearly by other people in order to avoid accidents, but in order for a worker to be properly conspicuous, their body form must also be easily distinguishable from the background, other objects, and other people. So not only does the clothing need to have the necessary reflective materials, but it also needs to be in the right size in order for the wearer's body form to be accurately visible.
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