An important first step to avoid incidents on construction sites or at work zones is to make sure that workers and visitors are highly visible when working on or walking through the job site.
If personnel are not easily visible on job sites, they can be exposed to many types of injuries especially when they are near heavy equipment such as excavators, cranes, dozers, and trucks or near road construction work zones.
Safety vests can help warn workers, equipment operators, and drivers that individuals are in the immediate work area. The extra visibility provides valuable time for them to stop or slow operations until people are out of the hazard zone.
There are different types and classes of safety vests available and it is important that every worker have a well-fitting safety vest that meets the requirements for the work environment.
Safety vests are important and should be used by workers to ensure they are visible and protected during activities such as:
- traffic control and roadway construction or maintenance
- excavation work near roads and busy parking lots
- installation and maintenance on gas, electric, water, sewer, and telecom utilities
- general construction work near heavy equipment, cranes, and moving trucks
- work near landfills, light rail or heavy rail roads
- work at night and low light conditions where personnel visibility is vital to avoid potential injury
OSHA Standard 1926.651(d) Employees exposed to public vehicular traffic shall be provided with, and shall wear, warning vests or other suitable garments marked with or made of reflectorized or high-visibility material.
Safety vests should be highly visible during the daytime, when there are low light conditions, or at night.
The safety vest must ensure the worker stands out and is set apart from the background including heavy equipment, machinery, materials, motor vehicles.
OSHA requires employers to refer to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) for details on safety vests and other devices used when performing work on or near roads.
The MUTCD may be different depending on what State in which you may be working.
OSHA Standard 1926.201(a) Flaggers. Signaling by flaggers and the use of flaggers, including warning garments worn by flaggers, shall conform to Part 6 of the MUTCD.
Safety Vests are available in different Types and Classes. The ANSI/ISEA 107 Standard contains the rules for the specific classes of safety vests.
Class 1 Safety Vests are made with a minimum amount of high visibility material and usually only acceptable where there may be struck-by hazards away from roadway speeds.
Class 2 Safety Vests are made with an increased amount of high visibility material and is the minimum requirement for a safety vest when working on roads or flagging.
Class 3 Safety Vests provide the highest amount of visibility and must have sleeves with retro-reflective material to help outline the body of the worker.
The type of safety vest required will depend on the type of work being performed, the location, and the lighting conditions.
Certain projects, organizations, and companies will set minimum requirements for the type of safety vest required, regardless of the task being performed.
It is important to maintain your safety vest and ensure it is kept clean and free from damage.
Safety vests should fit properly.
- If the safety vest is too tight it will be uncomfortable and less likely to be worn consistently.
- If the safety vest is too large it may be distracting or become a caught-in hazard.
As with any uniform, PPE, or tool, workers must replace safety vests when they are worn out, torn or ripped, faded, cracked, or damaged.
Look for the label on the safety vest to make sure you have the correct Class required for your work environment.