Workplace Solutions Construction safety High-visibility Protective clothing

Hi-vis PPE program considerations

How are safety managers stacking additional safety and productivity considerations with their hi-vis program?

Ergodyne WS pic.jpg
Photo: Ergodyne

Responding is Tim Gallant, product director, Ergodyne, St. Paul, MN.

Because high visibility is a highly commodified personal protective equipment category, I think it’s easy to view it through the myopic lens of your typical hi-vis vest. A worksite staple usually made at low cost. Single purpose with little to no design consideration. Slap some reflective on fluorescent mesh and send it out the door.

But seen from the perspective of a dutiful safety professional tasked with mitigating myriad risks, they’re asking, “What else?” What about environmental factors such as summer heat or unpredictable winter weather? Flame resistance? Dropped objects? Does the hi-vis stay compliant with a fall harness? The considerations are a mile long, so the smart ones are asking if their hi-vis solutions can help them cross two or three more things off the list, in addition to simply helping their crew “be seen.”

This is where serious hi-vis manufacturers set themselves apart. They’re usually the ones presenting hi-vis – and PPE in general – as a holistic program. The good ones are there to provide compliance guidance and engage worksites in connecting the dots. Can we add a cooling element to these vests to combat heat stress? What about tool tethering connection points? Time to better understand if a solution makes sense within the reality of the workday. The end product needs to be deeply informed by the end user, not guided by what some clever product designer in a vacuum thinks is helpful.

And, of course, safety and productivity are two sides of the same coin. It may be trite, but a surprising amount of people still view the two in opposition. Serious hi-vis manufacturers are well aware of this dichotomy and mindful to answer the typical objections with design considerations; additional pockets, pen holders and mic tabs combined with a proper fit give regular vests a shot of productivity by turning this overlooked and annoying PPE item into somewhat of a mobile workstation.

Tool tethering hi-vis vests are another great example of this merger of safety and productivity. Dropped object prevention continues to grow, as do standard operating procedures on sites with at-height work. A few hi-vis manu-facturers have grown with that reality, offering solutions with ANSI 121-rated attachment points for tool lanyards. This, of course, stacks an additional safety component on top of the hi-vis requirement. But it also brings a productivity component. Tools are not only tethered, but conveniently located and ready to work when needed. 

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be considered a National Safety Council endorsement.

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