Determining appropriate reflective workwear

August 1, 2008
What factors are important in choosing the right reflective clothing for the job?

Answered by Gary Pearson, marketing manager for 3M Visibility and Insulation Solutions, St. Paul, MN.

A variety of workplace factors, by job function, must be considered when deciding on occupational workwear options for employees. These factors could include exposure to traffic and equipment, task load, environmental complexity, and garment exposures. Garment exposures may include flash fire, electric arc resistance, soil and chemicals, environmental exposure, abrasion, and laundering.

Given the range of possible circumstances, there really is no one-size-fits-all solution. Safety vests often are the fall-back choice, but, in fact, they may not always be the best choice for the job function and season. In addition, research has shown that one reason vests often are not effective is because they are not worn. The 2000-2001 International Safety Equipment Association study on compliance showed that up to 25 percent of the time, workers do not wear the high-visibility vests issued. Among the reasons for noncompliance are lack of comfort, flexibility and style. That's where high-visibility workwear can really deliver. When garments selected for each job function meet the needs of the wearer for functionality, comfort, durability and image, the likelihood that they will be worn each workday improves.

It is important to consider a variety of factors when determining the appropriate occupational workwear option for employees. Below is a checklist to help choose the best options for workers:

  • Review the ANSI/ISEA 107-204, MUTCD 2009 Edition and other relevant standards to ensure compliance.
  • Identify potential savings from purchase and use of high-visibility workwear. Take into account the costs associated with worker injuries when thinking about the return on investment.
  • Review a range of high-visibility garment options appropriate for the job function based on different work environments. Think about what is most important to workers and the hazards they face on a daily basis.