One of the easiest ways to improve safety is to make workers easily visible. Low visibility is one of the most serious dangers on a jobsite, with workers sometimes standing less than ten feet away from high-speed traffic and other workers operating heavy equipment.

Thanks to organizations like the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), public awareness of highway worker safety issues has been increasing. Both of these organizations sponsor national advertising campaigns that urge careful driving in work zones. Additionally, most states are cracking down by doubling fines for vehicles that speed through construction zones.

The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) has also done its part, developing an American National Standard for High Visibility Apparel and Headwear (107-2004) that offers a uniform, authoritative guide for the design, performance specifications, and use of high-visibility and reflective apparel and headwear. Required apparel must provide 360-degree visibility, day and night, to give workers a high level of conspicuity through the use of combined fluorescent and retroreflective materials.

Round-the-clock awareness

Many employers think they are providing their workers with the best high-visibility products available, only to find that under certain conditions, visibility is drastically reduced. For example, a safety vest that provides reflectivity only on the back and torso does not help a worker who is being viewed from the side. Another example is that of fluorescent garments that make a worker highly visible during the day, but nearly invisible at dusk if not marked with the proper reflective striping. Visibility around the clock is more important than ever before as more highway projects take place at night to avoid disturbing traffic flow.

Though road construction crews are the most obvious to benefit from this standard, many others will also benefit. For example, loggers in sort yards and landings, as well as emergency response personnel, face low-visibility hazards. To help workers in a wide array of job applications, the 107-2004 standard covers, but is not limited to, high-visibility and reflective vests, jackets and trousers. Headwear covered by the standard includes, but is not limited to, items such as ball caps and knit caps.

High-visibility requirements

Three classifications of apparel are defined in ANSI/ISEA 107-2004 and are described as follows:

Performance Class 1— For occupational activities that permit full and undivided attention to approaching traffic with vehicle and moving equipment speeds not exceeding 25 mph.

Performance Class 2— For occupational activities where employees are performing tasks that divert attention from approaching vehicle traffic with vehicle and moving equipment speeds exceeding 25 mph, or work activities taking place in a close proximity to traffic.

Performance Class 3— For occupational activities where workers are exposed to significantly higher vehicle speeds and/or reduced-sight distances, and the wearer must be conspicuous through the full range of body motions at a minimum of 390m, and must be identified as a person.

Table 1 shows examples of occupational activities for each classification.

Providing workers with apparel that meets the 107-2004 standard is voluntary. However, OSHA requires that workers who are exposed to certain hazards be equipped with some type of high-reflective gear.

Hard hats: easy to see

Head protection is not specifically covered by the 107-2004 standard, though hard hats are one of the most recognized pieces of safety equipment on the worksite. Hard hats are required on almost every worksite, and there are more than ten million hard hats in use in North America. With several high-visibility options available, your hard hat can help you be seen by fellow workers and drivers.

One option for increasing the visibility of a hard hat is using a high-visibility shell color. Orange is the most common high-viz color available. However, with the need to distinguish workers from safety barrels and signs that are typically also orange, other colors such as green and yellow are available.

Workers need to carefully monitor high-viz hard hat color stability during prolonged daylight exposure. Caps should be replaced as soon as fading is evident to ensure continued worker visibility and safety. Do not store your hard hat in the rear window of a vehicle where it can be degraded by the sun’s UV rays.

Striping on a hard hat is often considered decorative, or a means of differentiating workers. Many hard hats are striped specifically for decoration, with striping in blue, red, orange or green that has such a low CPL (candelas/lux/square meter) or “candle power” that it should only be considered decorative.

By using striping that is reflective and/or fluorescent in color, hard hats can provide enhanced worker visibility. The same highly reflective striping that is applied to clothing to meet the 107-2004 standard also can be applied to hard hats. To achieve improved retroreflectance, use striping with a high CPL number. To achieve 360-degree reflectivity, add striping all the way around the brim of your hard hat.

Keep in compliance

In order to protect workers on a jobsite, worker safety must continue to remain in the public’s conscience. The 107-2004 standard is a good beginning, but it will only have impact on worker safety if employers and employees comply with it. When it comes to worker safety, high-visibility products do save lives.