The International Safety Equipment (ISEA) lauded the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for issuing new rules to make road workers safer by requiring that they all wear high-visibility apparel whenever they are exposed to moving traffic, work vehicles or construction equipment, according to an ISEA press release.

Under rules published December 16, the FHWA adopted the 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), the standard for all the nation’s roadways. The revised MUTCD now requires that workers in a right-of-way or work zone, including emergency responders, must wear high-visibility apparel that meets Performance Class 2 or 3 requirements of ANSI/ISEA 107-2004, the American National Standard for High Visibility Safety Apparel and Headwear.

Emergency responders, firefighters and law enforcement personnel have the option of wearing vests that meet the American National Standard for Public Safety Vests, ANSI/ISEA 207-2006. There is an exception for firefighters who may be directly exposed to fire, flame, heat or hazardous materials, and are wearing retro-reflective turnout gear that meets National Fire Protection Association or other applicable standards.

“This move by the highway administration represents a major safety enhancement for all workers along highways or in highway work zones, and one that has been needed for a long time,” said ISEA President Dan Shipp. “We know of too many instances where high-visibility apparel could have made the difference between workers returning home after a shift or being taken to hospitals. Worker visibility in any light is crucial to saving lives and preventing injuries.”

Both standards for high-visibility apparel were developed by the ISEA High-Visibility Products Group in response to the need for greater protection for roadway workers, and approved as American National Standards. They include performance and design requirements for background and retroreflective material that provide enhanced visibility day and night.

The new rule extends protection to all workers on all roadways. Previously, the MUTCD had required high-visibility apparel only for flaggers, and recommended its use for other workers. An interim regulation published by FHWA had mandated the use of garments complying with the ANSI/ISEA standard, but only for workers on federal-aid highways.

Separate sections of the MUTCD require the use of ANSI/ISEA 107-compliant apparel for flaggers and adult school crossing guards. The flagger section also permits the use of ANSI/ISEA 207-compliant public-safety vests for law enforcement personnel directing traffic in work zones.

The revised MUTCD takes effect Jan. 15, 2010, and all states will have to adopt it as their state standard within two years. Workers will have to be in compliance with the high-visibility apparel requirements by Dec. 31, 2011. The safety apparel requirement for workers in federal-aid highway work zones has been in effect since November 2008.

Go to http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/kno_2009.htm to find the 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Go to http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/pdf/E9-28322.pdf to find the FHWA Federal Register notice, December 16, 2009.