Every year, there is news about situations where pedestrian workers were accidentally hit by drivers who did not see them until it was too late to change course. These incidents are devastating but there are ways to reduce these occurrences. One of these is making use of high visibility vests as these make the wearers highly visible even in adverse weather conditions.
High visibility clothing is a form of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which has reflective properties that make it easily identifiable in any condition (especially conditions which create poor visibility). High visibility (“Hi-Vis”) vests, (or construction safety vests), is colored brightly, sometimes fluorescent, and accentuated with silver reflective tape which makes it easy for operators or drivers of motor vehicles to see the wearer from a distance in bad weather and after dark. High visibility clothing has become a symbol for situations requiring extreme caution. It is associated with many types of hazardous work environments, not limited to emergency services, road maintenance, and the construction industry where it is imperative to be seen in all kinds of conditions.
Occupational Health and Safety guidelines require that everyone working in dimly lit or adverse weather conditions has to wear “Hi-Vis” clothing. Additionally, High Visibility Vest is among the vital personal protective equipment (PPE) OSHA required employers to provide whenever necessary to protect employees against workplace hazards capable of causing injury or impairment.
High Visibility Vest Color Codes
Safety jackets/vests are sometimes color-coded according to the environment in which they will be worn. Construction workers and emergency services personnel usually wear lime green, fluorescent orange, or lemon yellow reflective safety vests. Orange is okay for traffic traveling more than 25 miles per hour (mph), while yellow is used where nearby traffic is going to exceed 55 mph.
Moreover, fluorescent green, yellow, and orange are easily visible in the daytime. During the evening hours, the reflective tape helps the wearer become more visible because the tape is reflected brightly in the headlights of passing automobiles. If the tape is affixed to parts of the body that are in motion, like the legs of cyclists, this increases their visibility considerably.
(Suggested reading: Why is the Occupational Safety and Health at Worksites Vital?)
Why Do Construction Workers Wear “Hi-Vis” Vests
- In a situation where there are a lot of people working on a site and a large amount of vehicular traffic, the environment can be very hectic and the “Hi-Vis” clothing helps the workers stand out.
- Construction workers wear safety vests while working/walking around the construction sites to make them highly visible to operators of vehicles like forklifts, trucks, etc.
- Construction employees wear “Hi-Vis” clothing because they want to be seen from a distance.
- Road maintenance personnel and builders need to be visible and stand out from other people whenever they are repairing motorway signs or are working on sites. Even professionals who deal with accidents or serve in breakdown recovery services must be easily spotted by other people.
- Highway construction workers might need to work in the cold and wet weather that limits visibility, it becomes essential to get a “Hi-Vis” hoodie for safety and comfort. Conversely, if they have to work during summer, they simply wear a “Hi-Vis” polo shirt for comfort.
- Less Vulnerability to Danger – People working on the railway are particularly vulnerable, especially if they are repairing track or signals where there may be trains passing nearby. A train moves at high velocity which produces a lot of momentum that is not good for human beings. To make sure workers are visible from as far away as possible, they wear bright fluorescent orange jackets and trousers adorned with large amounts of reflective tape.
Other “Hi-Vis” Gear
Trousers also come in “Hi-Vis” materials. They are available in a wide range of sizes, down to children’s. When they are worn in tandem with a “Hi-Vis” jacket, the wearer is completely protected from the elements.
Maintenance of “Hi-Vis” Vests
High visibility vests is most likely to be worn every day, hence they should be highly maintained, kept cleanly, and be in the best working condition. The employer should ensure that:
- the “Hi-Vis” clothing is properly checked for any damage or tear before giving them to the employee.
- the protective clothing is well stored when not in use.
- there are storage facilities that will ensure that they are kept in the best condition.
In the long run, maintaining the workwear clothing in perfect conditions could save the employer in terms of buying costs.
(Suggested reading: Construction Worksite Safety Checklist)
“Hi-Vis” Clothing Performance
To execute construction tasks effectively, factors to consider when selecting “Hi-Vis” clothing include durability, performance, and comfort. To avoid the uneconomical replacement of protective clothing, it is fundamental to pick the leading quality workwear from reputable suppliers. More importantly, to maximize the potential of the “Hi-Vis” clothing, it is imperative to understand that:
- protective clothing is not only worn for the basic function of protection but also to enhance the wearer’s performance and physical appearance. Therefore, no matter the type of workwear that one adorns, it has to fit well and have no losses hanging parts that may get caught in moving machines.
- protective clothing may be the determining factor for the success of employees’ performance. The clothing has to be appropriate for the particular situation that the employee is in. This means that it should be good to be used in any type of weather condition as well as being visible enough to be seen both at night and during the day.
- the employees need to follow all the instructions provided by the employer or the set rules on how to use these high visibility clothing.
There is no doubt that the use of “Hi-Vis” clothing and accessories has reduced accidents and saved lives and has a positive impact on making the work of thousands of people much safer.