Trends in ... high visibility

Not all high-visibility products are created equal

By Tracy Haas, editorial assistant

Personal protective equipment is exactly what it sounds like – personal. Most gear is designed specifically for one worker, such as a hard hat for the head or earplugs to prevent hearing loss. But high-visibility safety products are not meant for one particular employee – they are meant for everyone around that person as well.

“High-visibility products are designed to communicate a message such as ‘Worker Here’ in a reflective vest, or ‘Danger – Do Not Operate,’” said Todd Morrison, safety product manager at Milwaukee-based Master Lock Co. These types of products are very important and permit quick and easy identification of any dangers or risks associated for any situation.”

However, even though these products can mean the difference between life and death, not everyone uses them properly. Bob Gates, product manager of apparel, and Robert Deitrich, market manager of PPE at Protective Industrial Products in Albany, NY, collaborated on their comments about proper use. “Many people still do not realize that if they are engaged in any activity on a public highway right of way, they must use a minimum of a Class 2 garment for visibility. Keep in mind that this is a minimum requirement and that many great options are available to increase worker conspicuity while engaged in areas around motor vehicle traffic,” they said.

Regarding purchasing, Steve Misiano, president of DragonFur by True North in Seattle, cautions employers to look at the bigger picture. “All high-visibility products must be maintained and have a limited service life. The least expensive purchase price does not always translate to the lowest cost of ownership because of impaired performance due to low-quality materials and cleaning difficulty,” Misiano said.

Choosing the proper equipment is not something to take lightly. Just because a vest may appear to be highly visible does not necessarily mean it complies with safety standards. Gates and Deitrich advised doing homework first. They recommended asking the following questions. “Does it use quality reflective tape? (There is a wide variance in the reflectivity of tapes, including some that may not meet ANSI standards.) Does it meet the standard to which you will be held in its intended application?”

According to Gates and Deitrich, color choice also is something to consider. “Choose garment colors keeping in mind where and when you will be using them. Lime stands out better at night, orange in the daytime. What is the color of your equipment and safety cones? Choose a contrasting color for your people.”

Regarding what needs to be improved in the high-visibility market, Gates and Deitrich pointed to better, more comfortable high-visibility rain gear for workers.

Some technologies are starting to make a difference. “We’re seeing fabrics, reflectives and garments that are more comfortable for the user. The technologies include lighter-weight fabrics that move moisture away from the skin and dry quickly,” Misiano said.

High-visibility product uses are limitless. With research and forethought, you can determine what standard, color or type of high-visibility product is right for you.

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