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November Safety Tip: Your Safety Vest, Your Best Friend

By Alexis Eades

Daylight Savings Sunday has passed and every day the sunrise gets later and the sunset gets earlier. Especially during this time of year, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is your safety-best-friend (beyond just being Standard Operating Procedure) if you’re working out in the field.  For many, PPE means:

  • Hardhat
  • Safety Glasses
  • Hearing Protection
  • Work Boots
  • Work Gloves
  • Hi-Vis Safety Vest

You may just be wearing what your manager tells you to wear. But do you know why some jobs require one type of safety vest while others require other types?

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is the organization that creates the standards for all the many classes of products and services. Here in the US, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) oversees and enforces worker conditions. OSHA uses ANSI standards for several PPE categories.

As described by here, for safety vests and safety apparel, ANSI has developed rating classifications for high visibility apparel which is based on several different criteria. These include work environment risk exposure, total reflectivity of the apparel, and total area of color contrast of the apparel.

Class 1 Safety Vests

A Class 1-rated vest carries the lowest rating of all of the safety apparel classifications because it has the lowest amount of reflective material. Therefore, this type is not used in the construction industry, and are instead typically used in non-traffic exposed areas. These can be seen in places like auditoriums, sporting events, or parking lot operations where the color contrast is important, but reflectivity is not.

Class 2 Safety Vests

The standard specified vest type for a lot of governmental transportation agencies is Class 2. However, these vests are appropriate only when the worker is in an area where traffic speeds only reach 50mph or less, but no higher. A Class 2 vest must have at least 201square inches of reflective tape on it and at least 775 square inches of contrasting yellow or green background material.

Class 3 Safety Vests/Apparel

The Class 3 rating requires the highest area of contrasting color exposure, 1240 square inches or more of contrasting yellow or green background material. They also require at least 310 square inches of reflective material. Needing to be a high contrasting area type vest, these usually are usually sleeved, not vests.

Who might wear this type? Anyone working where traffic speed may exceed 50 mph would need to. Also, anyone working on-site at night.

What colors are they typically? Usually, orange or yellow. However, the color selection may be determined by the client, industry, or the specific project environment.

Obviously, if you are working in the field, safety PPE is a requirement; But next time you put on your reflective gear or see someone else wearing it, you can know that a lot of thought was put into its selection.

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