If you are working in hazardous areas, like a construction site or beside a busy roadway, then visibility is a must. If, for instance, a heavy equipment operator fails to see that you are in the path of a hundred-ton machine then you are done for. Even if you shout, your voice will most likely be drowned out by the noise of the engine.
If only you were wearing something that is not just brightly colored but also very reflective then the machine operator could have seen you. This is exactly the reason why you need to wear a safety vest.
Safety vests are not just brightly colored. They also have parts that are highly reflective to increase the wearer’s visibility. This makes it possible to see the wearer even in low- light conditions and whenever there is inclement weather in the worksite.
How Does It Work
Safety vests work by making the wearer increasingly visible, even in low-visibility conditions. The colors of the vests are usually unnaturally bright, something that you would not often see in nature. This helps the vests become easily distinguished from their surroundings.
Safety vests also come with several strips of highly reflective materials. This increases the wearer’s visibility in low-light conditions. Even a small amount of light hitting these reflective areas will cause them to light up and show against a dark backdrop.
Some people increase the visibility of their safety vests by adding more reflective tape and sometimes, they attach miniature strobe lights on their backs and fronts. They do everything that they can to further improve their vests’ effectiveness.
Types of Safety Vests
The American National Standards Institute provides three classifications of safety vests: Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3. These ANSI ratings are meant to help workers decide what kind of safety vest is best for their work environments.
Class 1 – These vests are meant for workers who are at the lowest risk levels but are still in danger of serious physical injuries and even death. Class 1 vests are usually used for job sites where the traffic does not exceed speeds of 25 miles per hour and the work is usually done pretty far away from the roadway and heavy equipment.
Examples of people who would use this type of vest include contractors doing sidewalk repair in a suburban neighborhood. According to the regulations stated by the ANSI, Class 1 safety vests should have either a safety yellow or orange color and they must have at least 155 square inches of reflective material.
The reflective tape should wrap around the middle and over the shoulders of the vest. These vests do not require sleeves.
Class 2 – This classification of safety vest is for higher-risk environments including roadwork where the traffic is moving no faster than 50mph. Class 2 vests need to be larger than the Class 1 because they need to be more visible.
They need to have at least 775 square inches of safety yellow or orange background space, and at least 201 square inches of reflective material. These vests are commonly worn by road survey crews, airport baggage workers, construction workers near or operating heavy equipment, and crossing guards at schools.
Class 3 – These vests are worn by people who work in high-risk environments because these places are where visibility is a top priority. The people who need to wear these vests are usually road workers who are doing repairs in the freeways, law enforcement and rescue personnel, and tow truck workers.
These also include emergency assistance crews who need to work in less than optimal weather conditions. The Class 3 vests are the largest of the bunch because the ANSI requires that they have at least 1,240 square inches of safety yellow or orange backgrounds and 310 square inches of reflective material.
These vests often have short sleeves, making them resemble a shirt rather than a traditional vest. For workers who might need to respond to emergencies, the vests need to be easy to take off in case they get snagged on debris.
Why Do You Need a Safety Vest
The main reason why safety vests are needed is for high visibility. These vests need to have bright colors that are easily distinguishable from the background and can be easily seen in the dark. This is why they always come in fluorescent colors and have reflective materials on them.
Here are some more reasons why high-visibility vests are needed:
Safety – High-visibility safety vests are often the only way that workers can be seen and identified in workplaces where visibility is not that good or where the lighting is not enough. For instance, in construction sites, the operators and drivers of heavy machinery might not have enough time or opportunities to check their surroundings for other workers on the ground.
Identification – Safety vests help distinguish unauthorized individuals within a particular workplace. For instance, people who want to take a shortcut through a hazardous construction area rather than going around it can be quickly identified by security personnel and then escorted outside for their safety.
Also, in case of emergencies, the high-visibility safety vests make it easier to find the workers and provide them with assistance. For example, if a construction worker gets trapped inside a collapsed section of a building they are working on, rescuers will be able to locate him faster when he is wearing a high-vis safety vest.
Directional Guidance – For instance, if rescue workers are sent out to find a missing hiker, their brightly colored safety vests will make them easier to spot by the hiker, thus enabling him to reach out for help. The safety vests also help police officers’ direct traffic away from an accident site so that emergency medical teams will have a clear path to help the victims.
High visibility vests are the first line of defense against workplace hazards. These also allow the workers to do their tasks in relative safety. The ANSI standards were set in place to ensure that safety gears are designed in the most optimum manner to keep the wearer safe.
With the help of high-visibility safety vests, serious incidents are drastically reduced, which is also helpful in maintaining workplace safety.
Excerpt from Article Environment Design + Construction The Best Safety Vest for 2020, May 1, 2020 by Michael Davey. https://www.edcmag.com/best-safety- vests/#How_Does_It_Work