A Better Guide to High-Vis Apparel

Important changes in ANSI/ISEA 107-2004 include criteria for knit fabrics and the removal of classifications based on vehicle speed.

BUYING and wearing appropriate high-visibility apparel--appropriate in the sense that the wearer is conspicuous and highly visible given the task he or she is engaged in--became much easier last fall with the update of the first American National Standard for high-visibility safety apparel, ANSI/ISEA 107-1999. Sept. 15, 2005, was the date the American National Standards Institute approved ANSI/ISEA 107-2004, which was devised by the ISEA High Visibility Products Group with help from employers, material suppliers, testing labs, safety professionals, and others.

The 2004 edition, American National Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel and Headwear, addresses the design, performance specifications, and use of high-visibility and reflective apparel including vests, jackets, bib/jumpsuit coveralls, trousers, and harnesses. Garments meeting the standard through the use of combined fluorescent and retroreflective materials can be worn 24 hours a day.

Why is the 2004 version a better way to protect workers who are at risk of struck-by injuries? For several reasons:

* Unlike 107-1999, it includes high-visibility headwear, such as knit caps, ball caps, and other hats. "Enhancing visibility to the head is effective in identifying the wearer as a person," ISEA Technical Director Janice Bradley explained.

* The 2004 version requires garment manufacturers to include a compliance certificate. "Users will have a standard certificate and format for all garments that meet the standard," Bradley said. Test reports from accredited, third-party laboratories will include a column that indicates pass or fail. "Garments that meet 107-2004 must pass all applicable sections of the standard and be reported as such on the forms," she said.

* The 2004 standard clearly states a sleeveless garment or vest does not meet Performance Class 3 when worn alone. Since August 2000 this had been ISEA's official position; Bradley explained why the standard clarifies this. "It was never the intention of the standard that the requirements for Class 3 garments could be met by a vest alone," she said. "When the work environment dictates that a Class 3 garment is needed--for example, the worker is in close proximity to vehicles traveling at speeds exceeding 50 miles per hour--the wearer needs more of the body covered with high-visibility clothing. Garments that meet the 107 standard should make the wearer more visible at distances, but also distinguish the wearer from other visibility products in the area, such as a traffic cone or barrel.

"Class 3 garments are for workers who face serious hazards and often have high task loads that require attention away from the work environment," she added. "Garments for these workers should provide maximum visibility to more of the body, such as the arms and legs."

The standard establishes three performance classes that are based on the wearer's activities and determined by the total area of background and reflective materials used in the apparel. "The revision doesn't change the basic requirements of the standard, such as garment dimensions, color, or retroreflective performance, with the exception of clearly prohibiting any kind of sleeveless garment to be labeled Class 3 when worn alone," Bradley said. "The standard has been expanded to keep up with the state of the art in fabrics technology and design and now provides users with documentation that a garment meets all the requirements of the standard."

* While the 1999 version had performance criteria only for woven materials used as background material, 107-2004 adds performance criteria for knit fabrics. This enhances mobility and gives users more options for comfort in hot or cold weather.

* 107-1999's references to garment classifications based on vehicle speeds were removed from the 2004 version. This was done because of the recognition that most vehicle drivers exceed the speed limit, Bradley said. "Also, users were selecting garments based solely on the posted speed limit, and that is not the most important selection criterion."

The standard emphasizes that garment selection should be based on the color and complexity of the work environment, the task load of the worker, separation of the worker from moving equipment and vehicles, and other work environment variables. The appendix includes occupational scenarios as guidance for users.

Making the Right Choices
Workers who are wearing high-visibility garments can ensure they have the right type for their application by performing a hazard evaluation of their task load, work environment, and the color of the work environment, Bradley said. This will dictate the performance class of the garment, as well as its color. For example, road workers who are performing tasks close to traffic cones and barrels may want to select the lime green garment to contrast them from the work environment. Workers who are near trees, shrubs, and grass may want orange garments and headwear so they will stand out from their surroundings, she said.

"There's been a lot of progress since the standard first appeared," ISEA Technical Projects Coordinator Cristine Fargo said soon after the 2004 version was approved. "People driving through highway work zones can immediately see the advances in product design. The workers are more visible."

ANSI/ISEA107-2004 can be purchased from ISEA for $60 a copy, with discounts available for ISEA members and bulk purchasers. Write to info@safetyequipment.org to order.

Ensuring Nighttime Visibility
Protecting workers at night, especially if they are road construction workers who must do their jobs in close proximity to moving traffic, is a serious challenge. The ANSI/ISEA 107-2004 standard is one source for recommendations. Another is the National Work Zone Safety Clearinghouse, which is online at http://wzsafety.tamu.edu and recently posted its Roadway Safety Version 8.0 for download. The American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) recommends keeping these factors in mind when outfitting nighttime workers:

Why Night Work is Different
Drivers are:
* less attentive
* traveling at higher speeds
* more likely to be impaired by alcohol or drugs

Both drivers and workers are more likely to be:
* tired and fatigued
* experiencing decreased vision and visibility

Common problems during night work include:
* reduced visibility
* driver impairment or inattention
* fatigue
* inadequate lighting
* lack of maintenance of traffic control devices

This article appeared in the February 2006 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.


This article originally appeared in the February 2006 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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