High Visibility Industrial Clothing Proves Safety Features Are Invaluable on Construction Sites


Construction sites around the world all have a unique safety hazard. Visibility on roadways during twilight and night time hours is a safety hazard that cannot be reliably engineered out with improved lighting. Visibility at night time for motorists is extremely limited when it comes to spotting pedestrians or workers on the side of the road. For example, wearing dark clothing limits the visibility of a person to 100 feet at night. Lightly or brightly colored clothing only increases that distance to 250 feet. The total stopping distance for a vehicle, including driver reaction time, is about 600 feet when traveling at 30 mph and 1200 feet when traveling at highway speeds of 60 mph. Clearly, special personal protective equipment is necessary for outdoor work.

Industrial clothing designed to offer high visibility for workers is utilized to create a safer construction site environment. The same types of industrial clothing are also used for utility workers, police forces, emergency medical services, fire fighters, and airport workers. High visibility clothing is also vital to protect workers from on the job accidents as well. Workers driving a construction vehicle on a work site suffer from the same visibility issues as motorists on a highway. That is why high visibility industrial clothing is used on any work site during low light hours or any environment that cannot be well lit at all times.

Clothing Visibility Standards

Not all high visibility clothing is created equal; merely wearing bright colors is not enough to protect workers. The American National Standards Institute has put forth requirements for the proper industrial products that can be classified as high visibility. Following the set standards will ensure that workers are visible and the job site is in compliance.

The basis for meeting the ANSI standard 107-2004 that governs high visibility safety apparel is retro-reflective materials. When light from a light source hits an object, light beams are scattered in every direction. Retro-reflective materials concentrate the reflected light into the same direction that it came from. These materials increase the visibility distance for clothing dramatically without using a power source or heavy equipment.

Standard 107-2004 has designated three classes of high visibility outfits for use on the job. Any outfit that does not include retro-reflective bands or threads does not qualify for the standard, so wearing a neon orange shirt is not enough protection. The proper clothing for a class 1 high visibility suit is a vest with the proper reflective material and a reflective band two inches wide that circles the torso and shoulders in addition to reflective strips on the headwear worn. This is the minimum level of protection on lower risk job sites. Class 1 is a good choice for daytime applications in combination with fluorescent colored clothing.

Class 2 adds full sleeves and an additional reflective band at the waist to provide a better outline for the human shape. This class is appropriate for low-light conditions such as twilight and early evening, construction sites at night with flood lighting, and low-light work sites. The highest class, class 3, includes trousers or coveralls that additionally outline the waistline and ankles and is appropriate in the darkest work environments. Class 3 will provide visibility at a minimum distance of 1280 feet, leaving enough stopping distance for vehicles traveling at typical highway speeds.

Additional High Visibility Guidelines

The proper fit for any piece of industrial clothing is as important as its visibility properties. Loose clothing will result in injury as industrial products with moving parts can snag onto extra material and pull a worker toward an operating machine. There are hundreds of yearly deaths and thousands of injuries and amputations as a result of baggy clothing on job sites. On the other hand, clothing must not be so tight so as to restrict movement in a situation where a worker would need to avoid an accident or quickly leave the area of a recognized hazard.

The color of the apparel worn is also an important factor. The best colors offer a contrast with the surrounding environment. Using a fluorescent orange color on a worksite with orange industrial products and machinery is not effective. Always choose a color that will not blend in with anything else on the work site. Good choices are fluorescent version of orange, yellow, lime green, or an intense white or silver.

Following high visibility industrial clothing standards is the best way to protect workers for the hazards of night and low light work environments.

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write by Seward