Keeping Workers Safe The Importance of High-Visibility Clothing


Black safety vest

For those who work in manual labor jobs such as construction, high-visibility clothing is not only a safety precaution but a necessity. Workers can easily go unnoticed by moving vehicles and machinery, which can lead to work injuries or even death. 4,836 workers were killed in work-related accidents in 2015 alone and, in 2014, workers in their late teens missed an average of four work days because of a work-related injury.

Providing workers with contrasting apparel such as reflective pants, cargo work pants with reflective tape, high visibility t shirts, high visibility winter jackets, or a fluorescent vest will make them more visible in conditions with low lighting. The higher the contrast between the worker?s clothing and the worker?s environment, the more visible the worker will be to vehicles and other employees.

However, the types of high-visibility clothing differ depending on the work environment. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, fluorescent colors and reflective clothing work best in low light conditions whereas in dark conditions it?s best to wear clothing that is retroreflective, which means the clothing not only reflects light but also returns light “in the direction of the light’s source.”

While working in daylight, high-visibility t-shirts and high-visibility pants are recommended to be bright or fluorescent colors in order to stand out against duller-colored backdrops, which is especially important while walking within a work environment such as a construction zone. Construction workers and laborers can walk up to 30,000 steps a day — two times the amount of the average person — and so it?s important for work vehicles and those operating heavy machinery to be able to see workers walking through the work site lest injury or death to occur.

While the colors and types of high visibility apparel are important, so is the size of the apparel itself. Full-body coverage in high visibility apparel is the optimal choice, otherwise utilizing larger apparel such as pants and jackets is also effective. Colored stripes are also a viable option for high visibility and, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, are best worn on the arms of high visibility t shirts and legs of pants to “provide visual clues about the motion of the person wearing the garment.”

Wearing high visibility t shirts and other apparel is essential to labor and construction work to keep workers safe from injury. However, while employers must provide their workers with this apparel, it?s just as essential for workers to utilize it. Wearing the correct apparel in the correct environment may just save a life.

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