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Posted by Mike on 6/17/2009 to Safety News

On November 24, 2008, a federal law (Federal Highway Administration, 23 CFR Part 634) went into effect that now requires all people who work along Federal highways to wear ANSI 107-2004 certified Class 2 or Class 3 high visibility clothing.   Failure for states to enforce the legislation could lead to a cut-off of Federal highway funding.    Various municipalities and state highway patrol officers across the US have been cracking down on tow truck drivers and the like to don safety apparel.  Consequently, we’ve seen brisk sales this year in our high viz line.

There are 5 different classes of high visibility clothing.  Four of these fall under the ANSI 107-2004 guideline, and the fifth is the ANSI 207-2006 Standard for High Visibility Public Safety Vests.  We get emails and phone calls on a regular basis from folks who are confused with regards to what these standards entail and which is applicable for a given stituation.  Although the ANSI standards are copyrighted materials and so they can’t be reprinted here, this posting will attempt to provide some level of clarification.

With regards to ANSI 107-2004, the four classes are: 1, 2, 3 and E.  Class 1, 2, and 3 are for torso garments (shirts, jackets, vests, etc) and Class E is for pants.   Different work environments, OSHA guidelines, Federal regulations and local statutes dictate what level of visibility apparel is appropriate for a given job.  Class 2 provides a higher level of visibility than Class 1.  Class 3 provides a higher level of visibility than Class 2.  The manner in which the level of visibility is achieved has two primarty components:

  • Width of reflective stripes and coverage area.  Class 1 garments have narrower reflective stripes than Class 2 or 3 garments.    Class 3 garments are required to have sleeves with reflective stripes encircling the arms
  • Fluorescent  background material.   The amount of fluorescent material required for a garment increases as the Class increases from 1 to 2 to 3.  This means that open mesh vests (with holes larger than the fabric weaving) with cut-out sides will work ok for Class 1 garments.   But that type of material and overall design will generally not provide enough fabric coverage for Class 2 or 3 apparel.  Consequently, most Class 2 and 3 items are either full fabric or jersey mesh.  Jersey mesh is a type of breathable fabric with pores that take up less surface area than the fabric itself.

ANSI 207-2006 is for public safety vests only and falls in between the ANSI 107-2006 Class 1 and Class 2 standards.   Less fluorescent  fabric is required than for a An ANSI 107-2004 Class 2 vest.   It was created to enable the design of vests with a shorter length so that belt equipment (e.g., guns) could be easily accessed by public safety personnel.    With fluorescent fabric still makes up most of the vest, this standard also permits the use of colored “panels” on the vest to identify different types of public safety employees (e.g., police, fire, EMS, etc.).

High visibility apparel must either be fluorescent lime/yellow/green, orange or red (red is rare used), with the lime/yellow/green item providing the best level of visibility.  Most safety apparel is made from polyester because 100% cotton garments generally cannot retain the required level of fluorescence for 25 washings.   The reflective stripes can be silver, white, yellow or other high gloss colors, as long as the meet the required reflectivity standards.  The stripes can be affixed to the garments in a wide range of configurations, but they must basically encircle the torso and also extend over the shoulders.

Items can have zippered front closures, Velcro closures or both.  They can be designed with different sizes for different size people or with adjustable sides.  Some garments have no pockets, and some have lots of pockets. Some vests have a 5 point breakaway feature so in an emergency the  garment can pull off without taking the worker with it.

Which type of Class is applicable depends on: 1) environment visibility conditions (night, fog, etc), 2) speed of surrounding traffic, 3) proximity of worker to traffic, and 4) movement of worker and attentiveness to traffic.    Parking lot and warehouse workers generally wear Class 1 vests.  Roadway construction workers, tow truck operators, survery crews, landscape workers, utility workers usually wear Class 2 items, but may wear Class 3 garments along with Class E pants in extreme conditions.  Consult your local requirements and consider your job conditions in assessing the class of garment you should wear.  What’s key is to always make sure you can be easily seen from a distance wherever you are so that people with vehicles have time to react.

Mike Lee