Most workers know that high-visibility gear is a safety requirement for jobs near moving traffic or equipment. But there are so many options – with different color-ways, reflective tape patterns, sleeve lengths – how should you choose the right hi-viz apparel for your job?
The first thing to understand is the ANSI/ISEA 107-2015 standard. This is a voluntary standard that provides guidelines on what qualifies as an approved fluorescent material; and what level of coverage and reflective tape are required to qualify as for various classes and types of garments.
The ANSI 107-2015 standard, however, is not law. It is the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices 2009 (MUTCD 2009) that makes hi-viz apparel mandatory, and that regulation is both translated and enforced by each state. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) developed an interpretation statement regarding MUTCD, intended to clarify the requirements for when high-visibility apparel is required.
ANSI Hi-Viz Garment Classes and Types
ANSI 107 establishes four performance classes (Class 1, Class 2, Class 3, and Class E) and three garment types (Type O, Type R and Type P). Performance class and garment type are co-dependent, which means that to qualify under the ANSI standard, the apparel must have both a class and a type (not just one or the other).
Performance Class 1 offers the minimum amount of high-visibility materials needed to differentiate the wearer from non-complex work environments. On the other side of the spectrum is Class 3, which offers the greatest amount of high-visibility materials to allow for the best definition of the human form in both complex backgrounds and through a full range of movement. In addition, Class E describes pants or bibs that do not qualify as meeting the requirements of any of the other classes when worn alone, however when they are worn together with a Class 2 or Class 3 garment, the overall classification of the ensemble is Class 3.
Garment Type O is intended for work that takes place off-road or in controlled environments, such as parking lots, festivals, warehouses and factories. Garment Type R is intended for roadways or other environments with moving traffic or equipment, and is the minimum level of protection permitted for workers exposed to roadway rights-of-way, including roadway, construction, transportation, traffic-control, DOT, and airport ramp workers. This garment type represents the vast majority of hi-viz apparel on the market. Finally, Type P garments are intended for public safety workers, including emergency/incident response, police, fire, and EMS. Type P garments are permitted to be worn in the same environments as Type R garments, however they make accommodations for the additional gear required by those professions.
Choosing the Right Class and Type
Choosing the right hi-viz apparel for the job is tricky and can be complicated by conditions such as low-light or poor weather. It is always best to check with your safety manager on the job to make sure that your clothing complies with the requirements of that job. Here are some generic guidelines that can help you choose the right clothing: