FHWA Finalizes High-Vis Apparel Rule

The federal agency decided to retain the exemption for firefighters out of concern wearing compliant apparel that might not be fire-resistant could increase their risk during emergencies.

The Federal Highway Administration on Monday adopted as final an Interim Final Rule that amended its regulations for high-visibility safety apparel. The interim standard has been in place since Nov. 24, 2008, exempting firefighters who are actively engaged in emergency operations where they are directly exposed to flame, fire, heat, and/or hazardous materials. Only three comments were submitted, all of them raising different points -- including one that recommended granting no exemption at all.

The other two comments suggested the exemption has been confusing for the fire service. One said background information in the interim rule created the false impression that a firefighter doesn't need to comply with the regulation if he/she is wearing an NFPA 1971 standard-compliant garment; FHWA disagreed, saying the language in the interim rule is accurate and needs no modification.

The third commenter said confusion has resulted from the existence of several standards for high-vis garments and how they are referenced in this rule and in another rulemaking to revise the 2003 edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). FHWA said this comment will be considered when it analyzes comments on that rulemaking.

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