How to Stay Safe with ANSI Standards for High Visibility Vests.
If you work in an environment where visibility is crucial, like a construction site, roadway, or an airport, you may have come across hi-vis vests. But what exactly are these standards and why are they important for your safety? In this blog post, we will explain the significance of hi-vis vests, how they are classified, and guide you in choosing the right vest for your job.
What are ANSI standards?
The term "ANSI" refers to the American National Standards Institute, which is a non-profit organization responsible for developing and publishing voluntary consensus standards for various products, services, processes, and systems in the United States. These standards are not legally binding regulations, but they have significant recognition and are widely adopted by numerous industries, government agencies, and consumers as essential guidelines for ensuring quality, performance, and safety.
One of the ANSI standards that is relevant for workers who need to be visible is ANSI/ISEA 107-2020, which is the latest edition of the American National Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel (HVSA). This standard provides specifications for the design, materials, and testing of HVSA items such as shirts, rainwear, outerwear, and a safety vest. The purpose of this standard is to help improve worker visibility during the day, in low-light conditions, and at night.
How do ANSI standards classify hi-vis vests?
ANSI/ISEA 107-2020 classifies HVSA into three types and four performance classes based on the amount and width of reflective and background material, the traffic speed, the weather, and the task load. The types are:
- Type O: Off-road: This type is for workers who operate in environments with low traffic speeds (<25 mph) and minimal vehicle or equipment hazards. Examples of workers who may use Type O vests are parking attendants, warehouse workers, and delivery drivers.
- Type R: Roadway and temporary traffic control. This type is for workers who operate in environments with moderate to high traffic speeds (>25 mph) and potential vehicle or equipment hazards. Examples of workers who may use Type R vests are road construction workers, utility workers, and surveyors.
- Type P: Public safety. This type is for workers who operate in environments with emergency or incident situations that may involve law enforcement, fire service, or emergency medical services. Examples of workers who may use Type P vests are police officers, firefighters, and paramedics.
The performance classes are:
- Class 1: Minimal Visibility: This class is for workers who operate in low-risk environments with ample separation from traffic or other hazards. Class 1 vests have the least amount of reflective and background material among all classes. They must have at least 155 square inches of reflective tape and 217 square inches of background material.
- Class 2: Moderate Visibility: This class is for workers who operate in moderate-risk environments with some traffic or other hazards that may distract or impair the vision of motorists or equipment operators. Class 2 vests have more reflective and background material than Class 1 vests. They must have at least 201 square inches of reflective tape and 775 square inches of background material.
- Class 3: High Visibility: This class is for workers who operate in high-risk environments with high traffic speeds (>50 mph), low visibility conditions (such as bad weather or limited sight distances), or complex tasks that divert their attention from approaching hazards. Class 3 vests have the most reflective and background material among all classes. They must have at least 310 square inches of reflective tape and 1240 square inches of background material. Class 3 vests also have sleeves that cover the arms as well as the torso to provide more body coverage.
- Class E: Supplementary Visibility: This class is not a standalone one but rather an enhancement to Class 2 or Class 3 vests. Class E vests are pants or shorts that have reflective tape on the legs to increase the visibility of the lower body. When worn with a Class 2 vest, they create a Class 3 ensemble; when worn with a Class 3 vest, they create a Class 3+ ensemble.
How to choose the right high visibility vest for your job?
The first step to choosing the right hi-vis vests for your job is to determine what type and class of vest you need based on your work environment and hazards. You can consult your employer, your safety manager, or your local regulations to find out what type and class of vest are required or recommended for your job.
The second step is to select a vest that meets or exceeds the minimum requirements for your type and class of vest according to ANSI/ISEA 107-2020. You can check the label of the vest to see if it complies with the standard and what type and class it belongs to. You can also look for the ANSI logo or the ISEA (International Safety Equipment Association) logo on the vest or the packaging to verify its compliance.
The third step is to choose a vest that fits you well and is comfortable to wear. You should try on the vest before buying it and make sure it is not too loose or too tight. You should also adjust the straps, zippers, or Velcro closures to secure the vest properly. A well-fitting vest will not restrict your movement, interfere with your work, or create a safety hazard by getting caught on something.
The fourth step is to choose a vest that suits your personal preferences and needs. You may want to consider the following factors when choosing a vest:
- Color: The most common colors for high-vis vests are yellow and orange, but you may also find other colors such as red, pink, green, and blue. Some colors may be more effective than others, depending on the background and lighting conditions of your work environment. You may also want to choose a color that matches your company's logo or uniform.
- Style: There are different styles of high-vis vests, such as vests with pockets, vests with hoods, vests with cooling features, vests with breakaway features, and vests with logos or messages. You may want to choose a style that meets your functional, comfort, durability, and image needs.
- Additional hazards: Depending on your work environment, you may face additional hazards that require additional protection or features on your vest. For example, if you work near flames or sparks, you may need a vest that is flame-resistant; if you work near electricity, you may need a vest that is non-conductive; if you work in hot or cold weather, you may need a vest that is breathable or insulated.
High-vis vests are essential for workers who need to be seen by others in their work environment. By following ANSI standards for high-vis vests, you can improve your safety and reduce your risk of injury from traffic or other hazards. To choose the right high-visibility vest for your job, you should consider the type and class of vest you need, its compliance with ANSI/ISEA 107-2020, the fit and comfort of the vest, and your personal preferences and needs.