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Are You Wearing the Wrong Type of Hi-Viz Safety Gear?

by Matt on April 19, 2017

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“Stop Wearing the Wrong Hi Viz Safety Gear Today” is an excerpt from Superior Glove’s PPE Bible “The Complete Guide to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) [+ Checklist Download].”  Read the full guide for more information, including answers to industry workers’ 15 most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about PPE.

glow stick people

“This is the wrong hi viz safety gear”


Hi-Visibility PPE:

Hi viz safety apparel (HVSA) may also play a role in your PPE program, increasing worker visibility in dark areas.

Other advantages include:

  • Increasing worker visibility in well-lit indoor and outdoor environments, as the colors of HVSA stand out in most settings
  • Mitigating damage in the event of an accident, as some HVSA – such as hardhats – provides physical protection
  • Instilling a greater sense of safety in employees

To reap these advantages, there are specific standards and qualities you should be aware of before purchasing these types of clothing.


Choose the right PPE by downloading this checklist:
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Standard for Hi Viz Clothing: ANSI/ISEA 107-2015:

The American National Standards Institute established the American National Standard for Hi Viz Safety Apparel and Accessories (ANSI/ISEA 107-2015) to protect workers from hazards associated with low-visibility environments.

These hazards are generally the result of people operating vehicles and heavy machinery in low-light conditions. But risks also arise due to poor weather conditions and other factors that obstruct vision.

The standard – in its fourth edition – sets guidelines to help you choose and use HVSA such as:

  • Vests
  • Shirts
  • Coveralls
  • Rainwear
  • Headwear

Note that companies outside the United States may have to comply with another standard. For example, Canadian workers may follow CSA Standard Z96-15.

But, to help ensure compliance in the US, you can purchase a copy of the American standard here.


How the Standard is Divided:

New to ANSI/ISEA 107-2015 are three designations for HVSA, making it easier to choose the appropriate gear depending on the work environment.

They are:

  • Type O This is off-road apparel. Type O apparel aims to make wearers easy to spot for those driving vehicles and using machinery.
  •  Type R This is roadway and temporary traffic control apparel. It is also designed to make workers visible for those operating vehicles and mobile machinery. However, this apparel covers more of the worker than Type O apparel.
  • Type P This is public safety apparel. Used by fire, police and emergency medicine personnel, its purpose is to increase the wearer’s visibility in a range of environments. It is made from fluorescent material to accomplish this goal.

Following these categorizations will help you choose the best hi viz apparel for your employees’ needs.
worker in forest using chainsaw to thin trees


When You Should Use Hi Viz Clothing:

Hi viz clothing suits a range of worksites where laborer visibility is an issue.

Specifically, HVSA lends itself to jobs and locations that have:

  • Low light
  • Traffic or other vehicle hazards
  • Heavy, mobile machinery in use
  • Exposure to poor weather conditions
  • Obstructions, such as trees or construction materials
  • Any other conditions that prevents workers from being easily seen by each other or pedestrians

These conditions indicate a need to use HVSA that complies with ANSI/ISEA 107-2015 or another applicable government standard.


Differences Between Background and Retroreflective Material:

Hi viz safety material, as approved by the ANSI/ISEA 105-2017 standard, is made from either background or retroreflective material.
ANSI ISEA 107 Hi Viz
Background material is fluorescent. It can be red, orange-red or yellow-green. The goal of this material is to make workers stand out from their environments. So, if your employees work with red equipment, they shouldn’t wear HVSA made from red background material.

Retroreflective material is not defined by its color. Rather, it reflects and returns light to the direction from which it came. As a result, workers wearing this material have a mirror-like quality to their safety apparel.

It is also possible to find combined-performance material. This is retroreflective material on a fluorescent background.
worker directing traffic in hi viz clothing


Other Qualities That Make a Product Hi Viz:

In addition to being made from background or retroreflective material, a product must meet certain criteria to be considered HVSA.

If a piece of apparel uses retroreflective material, it must:

  • Have band widths appropriate for the garment class; for example, a Class 1 garment – such as a T-shirt – must have one-inch bands
  • Ensure 360-degree visibility of the wearer, with horizontal gaps between the bands that aren’t larger than two inches
  • Use at least 23.25 square-inches of retroreflective material in the shoulder area, if the garment does not use retroreflective material to encircle the sleeves

Apparel that uses background or combined-performance material must:

  • Remain the same size after washing and dry-cleaning
  • Meet standardized approval criteria for chromaticity, luminance and brightness without preconditioning
  • Pass tests for colorfastness after being cleaned or exposed to Xenon – a chemical element – through ultraviolet light

These qualities will ensure employees are as visible as possible on the worksite.
Hi viz PPE requirements are confusing, our FREE PPE checklist can help. Download your copy by filling in the form below!

Download your free PPE checklist

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