When it comes to work zone safety, one of the key issues is, “How do you increase the visibility of your work zone personnel?”

Between 1997 and 2005, there was a 40 percent increase is work zone fatalities. Although the Federal Highway Administration recently reported that this trend has leveled off in terms of deaths per 100 million miles of travel, that statistic is still not acceptable. The fact that nearly 2.7 million people were injured and 44,443 died on our nation’s roads in 2005 speaks to the necessity of visible work zones with highly visible work zone personnel.

Performance classes
The American National Standard for High Visibility Safety Apparel standards have played a key role in keeping national standards current and consistent with the effort to standardize work zone visibility standards.

The first publication of ANSI/ISEA 107-1999, and its latest edition in 2004, stresses minimum performance criteria and basic design requirements for high-visibility garment materials. The standard establishes three Performance Classes for high-visibility safety apparel based on the wearer’s activities and the type of background.

Typical recommended activities for each class are as follows:

Performance Class 1: Parking attendants, sidewalk maintenance.

Performance Class 2: Roadway construction workers, survey crews, railway workers, crossing guards.

Performance Class 3: Utility workers, survey crews, emergency response personnel, flagging crews.

Each Performance Class features increasing levels of background and reflective material, as the activity level and background complexity increases. Further, the standard sets benchmarks for labeling and wash cycles for garments that ensure that visibility standards are met.

The sciences of fluorescence (daylight conspicuity) and retroreflection (nighttime and dawn/dusk) are the guiding principles that measure visibility and are intrinsic to the performance characteristics in the standard.

Providing conspicuity
In 2003 the ANSI/ISEA 107 standard was mentioned in the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual On Uniform Traffic Control Devices for daytime and nighttime use by work zone flaggers.

As a large proportion of work zone activity takes place in low-light conditions at dusk/dawn, the importance of worker visibility has become more critical. Add to that condition the aging of the driving population, and work zone visibility becomes a true key safety initiative.

The latest ANSI/ISEA 207 standard for High Visibility Public Safety Vests (see sidebar) is the most recent effort to increase the visibility of emergency responders. These vests feature dimensions large enough to fit over a firefighters’ turnout gear, and also offer color-specific markings on vest panels and trim that identify police, fire and EMS personnel.

This new standard addresses the 24/7 nature of performance requirements for high-visibility vests for use by public safety workers. High-visibility public safety vests are intended to provide conspicuity of the user in hazardous situations under any light conditions by day and under illumination by vehicle headlights in the dark.

The method of identifying the public safety entity, such as an identification panel and/or trim, can be incorporated into the vest. Public safety industries can be identified with the specific names and colors:

Red= Fire Service
Green= Emergency Medical Service (EMS)
Blue= Law Enforcement

As we anticipate the increase of traffic congestion, the graying of our population and the increase in future work zone activities, it is essential that high-visibility garments continue to protect workers using the latest technology and standards.

SIDEBAR: ANSI/ISEA 207-2006 – American National Standard for High-Visibility Public Safety Vests

Published in December 2006, this public safety vest standard was created in response to demand for a high-visibility vest garment differentiated from ANSI/ISEA 107-2004 compliant apparel. The primary concern was a need for flexibility of designs that would provide tactical capability not achievable with ANSI 107 garments. Additionally, user groups wanted a high-visibility garment standard intended for law enforcement and emergency responders that would be distinct from ANSI 107, thereby avoiding interchangeability with “construction vests.”

The primary distinction of the ANSI 207 standard from ANSI 107 is that the required fluorescent background material (450 in2) falls between ANSI 107 Class 1 and ANSI 107 Class 2. This difference allows for design accommodation of equipment belts. The new standard also allows for design flexibility to incorporate colored panels to enhance easy, on-scene identification of wearers. ANSI 207 suggests use of many design options, such as shoulder breakaways, colored identifiers, loops, pockets, badge holders and ID panels.