Ensuring compliance of reflective garments
Answered by Greg Hayward, vice president and general manager, M.L. Kishigo, Santa Ana, CA.
Not only are some vest manufacturers oblivious to what the ANSI/ISEA 107-2004 standard really means, but some are placing inaccurate, incorrect and misleading information on the garment label itself.
The International Safety Equipment Association establishes performance criteria for safety garments and their classifications. These guidelines include basic performance criteria and testing requirements that manufacturers must meet to certify that a garment meets the standards.
Background material: This is the large piece of fabric from which the garment is made. Making something fluorescent and fade-resistant is a specific process, and a noncompliant garment can begin to fade in a matter of days. Dyed material is tested and evaluated for brightness factors, colorfastness and durability. The fabric must always be tested by a third party for compliance. If you begin making a garment with the wrong background material, the whole garment is wrong.
Design: A manufactured vest must meet or exceed several design requirements. For example, there must be a minimum amount of visible fluorescent fabric to meet the standard. A Class 2-compliant vest must have 775 square inches of visible background material and 201 square inches of reflective material. Add just one extra white (noncombined performance) reflective stripe and the vest could become out of compliance because the area of background material has been altered and is now below the 775-square-inch minimum. (This minimum is why you can't buy some vests in a small – not enough fabric.) An ANSI-compliant garment also must have 360 degrees of horizontal reflective tape with no more than a 2-inch gap in the tape (at front or side closures). Look for a label stating the name of the standard – ANSI/ISEA 107-2004, the class of garment and the level of reflective material. Many quality high-visibility garment manufacturers will use a computer-aided drafting system to closely inspect and measure the design and ensure that every garment meets the standard.
Reflectivity: Reflective material and tape must be independently certified by an outside lab. The material has to do more than just reflect light, it has to be bright. ANSI-compliant reflective material needs to be of sufficient power – for level 2, a minimum of 330 candlepower at certain specific angles. In addition, certain reflective tape can be classified as "combined performance material." For instance, lime reflective tape (not white) can be used on a fluorescent garment without decreasing its visible background material area.
Next time you place an order, ask for the third-party compliance certificates. In addition, manufacturers are required to supply an ANSI/ISEA 107-2004 Apparel Compliance Certificate, signed by an authorized company representative. A manufacturer can self-certify that its completed product (made from ANSI-compliant components) has met all ANSI 107-2004 requirements and can legitimately label the garment as compliant. Third-party testing is not required on a finished garment. Asking for all the certificates ensures garment compliancy, worker safety and accurate recordkeeping.