When Camo Isn’t Cool at Work
Certain occupations pose safety hazards to workers and require high-visibility clothing and equipment to prevent workplace accidents and injuries. Outdoor workers who work in highway and road construction are especially at high risk of injury.
High-Visibility Work Wear Reduces Accidents
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires certain workers to wear high-visibility clothing. Outdoor road and construction zones pose one of the greatest risks of injury to workers, because they can be hit by motor vehicles, often traveling at high speeds. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, 45 percent highway workers had motor vehicles crash into their construction zones within the last year. OSHA requires road and highway workers and outdoor construction workers to wear garments with high-visibility materials and colors and safety features when they are exposed to oncoming traffic and when they work as flaggers near a highway construction zone.
The American National Standards Institute/International Safety Equipment Association (ANSI/ISEA) 107 standard is accepted by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and OSHA as the industry standard for high-visibility work wear. High-visibility work clothing is broken down into three types based on the level of risk to the worker: Type P (public safety), Type R (roadway), and Type O (off-road). It’s also broken down by performance class, and each class has specific design requirements for materials, colors, reflective properties, and other safety features.
The ANSI 107 standard of high-visibility colors includes fluorescent red, fluorescent red-orange, and fluorescent yellow-green. Fluorescent colors draw more attention to workers in traffic zones, while reflective materials make workers more visible at night.
Break-away clothing is recommended to protect workers from injury around equipment with moving gears and parts. Many manufacturers have options with hook-and-loop materials incorporated into the shoulders, waist, and front of garments. This allows the clothing to rip away safely from the body if it gets tangled in moving machinery.
Workers who work around electrical hazards or natural gas and oil applications where flash fires can occur are required to wear flame-resistant clothing with proper fire-resistance ratings that meet industry standards. This clothing has a slow-burn rate and fast extinguish rate to protect workers from burns and other fire-related injuries.
Outdoor workers face extreme heat in the summer and freezing temperatures in the winter. To protect workers, manufacturers make breathable mesh materials for summer heat and insulated clothing for winter. For year-round wear and comfort, some clothing comes with zip-out sleeves and insulation.