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Trends in... high-visibility protection

July 1, 2012

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Fashionably safe

By Tracy Haas, editorial assistant

For construction workers on the side of the road or police officers directing traffic on a rainy night, high-visibility apparel could be the difference between life and death. Still, not all high-visibility personal protective equipment is the same, and knowing what is right for a particular job is a worker’s best bet to stay safe.

“Too often a lack of knowledge and education leads to a perception that ‘a vest is a vest,’” said Andy Olson, senior product manager for St. Paul, MN-based Ergodyne. “Other risks and factors, such as equipment storage (pockets), entanglement (requiring breakaway), climate (fabric weight and breathability) and flame resistance, should all be evaluated in order to choose the best garment option to keep workers not only visible, but also safe and productive,” Olson said. Ultimately, Olson recommends that if you are ever in doubt about a product or specific needs, you should ask the manufacturer.

Once the correct product for the job is determined, a very basic form of upkeep needs to be practiced,
according to Paul Maturen (pictured at right), marketing manager, performance safety materials business for St. Paul, MN-based 3M. “It’s important to make sure that high-visibility safety apparel is cared for according to the manufacturer guidelines – that fluorescent fabrics are clean and bright, and the reflective trim is clean as well,” he said. So if the job involves large amounts of dust or dirt, make sure to regularly follow the manufacturer’s directions for properly cleaning the garment.

Comfort and style

Although equipment maintenance will always be important, new features are popping up that focus on comfort. “For example, single-layer garments such as T-shirts have become increasingly popular, allowing workers to be visible and compliant in one single-layer garment without the added bulk and warmth of a traditional vest-style garment,” said Mark H. Stromme, editor, workplace safety, for Neenah, WI-based J. J. Keller & Associates Inc.

The appearance of these products is being taken into account as well. “Other innovations include custom cuttable transfer films that allow stations to customize their logos, reflective trims that boast enhanced durability for increased performance throughout the life of the garment, and transfer films that provide protection from heat, flame and arc flash hazards with the added benefit of stitchless bonding for a more efficient application process and increased design options for wearers,” Maturen said.

To best use high-visibility products, Stromme recommends following three pieces of advice: “Use the proper class of clothing; make sure the clothing is properly sized, fitted and clean; and have the employee use the high-visibility apparel at all times when exposed to hazards.”

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Coming next month … Eye protection

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