High Visibility Standards Keep Workers Safe

Think about the last time you traveled. How often did you come across a highway construction project? For most of us, maneuvering through orange construction barrels and slowing down in construction zones are daily occurrences. We are so accustomed to road construction projects that we often don’t notice the workers who are working in these zones. Construction workers may be only five or 10 feet away from cars travelling through the construction zone at 50 to 60 mph. How do we protect roadside construction workers? We need to slow our speed down, be aware of how close workers are to the road, and increase workers’ visibility to motorists and to each other. Let’s look at the visibility options available to workers in low-visibility environments.

Although road construction crews are the most obvious, we cannot limit our discussion to only these workers who face high-visibility challenges while on the job. Utility workers, emergency personnel including police and firefighters, tree service technicians, school crossing guards, and airport crews all face the hazards of not being seen. Think about the work that loggers are doing in sort yards and landings and the dangers facing airport workers during the early morning hours or late at night. High-visibility hazards affect hundreds of thousands of workers daily.

In 1999, the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) developed an American National Standard for High Visibility Apparel (ANSI/ISEA 107-1999) that offered a guide to using high-visibility and reflective apparel. This was the first standard that focused on protecting workers in low-visibility jobs. The standard was modified in 2004 (ANSI/ISEA 107-2004) to include headwear. Today, the ANSI/ISEA 107-2015 Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel and Accessories consolidates the ANSI/ISEA 107-2010 standard for High Visibility Safety Apparel (HVSA) and the ANSI/ISEA 207-2011 American National Standard for High-Visibility Public Safety Vests into a single comprehensive standard. By combining the two standards, ANSI/ISEA added to its current Performance Class 1, 2, and 3 requirements by including three new garment types:

  • Type O (off-road) or Performance Class 1: Non-roadway use where workers are not exposed to high traffic or temporary control zones.
  • Type R (roadway) or Performance Class 2 or 3: Workers are exposed to traffic from public access highway rights-of-way or roadway temporary control zones. 
  • Type P (public safety) or Performance Class 2 or 3: Emergency and incident responders and law enforcement personnel who are exposed to struck-by hazards in roadway or off-road work environments.

Below are examples of occupational activities for each of the classifications:

  • Type O/Performance 1: Parking attendants, shopping cart retrievers, warehouse workers with equipment traffic, sidewalk maintenance workers, or delivery vehicle drivers.
  • Type R/Performance 2 or 3: Railway workers, forestry workers, school crossing guards, airport crews, law enforcement personnel directing traffic, and accident site investigators.
  • Type P/Performance 2 or 3: Roadway construction personnel, utility workers, survey crews, emergency response personnel, and flagging crews.

The ANSI/ISEA standard is in place to ensure workers in low-visibility environments are provided with PPE that keep them safe on the job. Wearing high-visibility gear including reflective vests, jackets, trousers and hard hats greatly benefit workers in environments where low-visibility is a safety concern.