Hi-Vis Apparel & PPE: When Fit Meets Function

Posted by Empire Safety on Feb 15, 2017 10:00:00 AM


Workers face challenges every day from changing environments, materials and machinery; the last thing a worker should be concerned about is protective clothing. Just as the workforce evolves, so should vital pieces of Hi Vis personal protective equipment (PPE) such as vests, apparel and accessories. The new ANSI standard 107-2015 addresses some of the long overlooked issues with Hi-Vis apparel and accessories, including size and fit. Since PPE is often the last line of defense for workers against injury on the job, the updates couldn’t have come a moment too soon.

Risks of Ill-fitting Hi-Vis PPE:

When PPE doesn’t fit properly, it isn’t a style issue; it is a legitimate safety concern:

  • Trip hazard: Wearing baggy pants or shoes that are too large can cause a worker to trip over equipment or hazards
  • Poor dexterity: Wearing oversized gloves can reduce a worker’s ability to properly grip tools or equipment, resulting in injury
  • Obstructed view: Loose hardhats have a tendency to limit a worker’s view, increasing likelihood of injury or accident.
  • Reduced visibility: If a worker modifies their equipment to fit properly, it may diminish the effectiveness of reflective material

So What’s Different?

While ANSI/ISEA 107-2010 and ANSI/ISEA 207-2011 made sure protective clothing met or exceeded the safety requirements for retro-reflectiveness, level of visibility, performance and compliance; it left out another important aspect. Proper fit. The merging of the two standards created a single high visibility safety apparel (HVSA) standard, ANSI 107-2015. The updated standard became less design-restrictive allowing for smaller sizes to accommodate smaller body frames without compromising protection. This is a welcome change for many workers in the industry, especially women in the workforce who may not have been provided equitable safety and health measures in the workplace prior. Another added bonus is that with the less restrictive design, companies are able to add their own logos and customize their gear!

Here are some great examples of Hi-Vis PPE:

  • ML Kishigo Black Series T-Shirt, Class 2, Orange. These ANSI/ISEA 107 2010 Class 2 Compliant t-shirts are made with a microfiber polyester material that wicks away moisture. The 2” wide silver reflective tape is made from a breathable material which significantly reduces “hot spots” and provides greater flexibility over solid tapes.
  • Brilliant Series Heavy Duty Class 2 Vest. One of several styles now available in Size Small! This top of the line Class 2 vest is designed with performance and durability in mind. There is not a class 2 on the market that can rival its visibilty and build quality. When the added safety amounts to only pennies over the standard vest you can't afford not to go with the Brilliant Series Heavy Duty Class 2 vest.

  • The Halo Light™ from ILLUMAGEAR isn't actually Hi-Vis apparel but this Personal Active Safety System™ is still worth mentioning! It produces a ring of light around the wearer, enabling him or her to see and be seen in all directions at all times and helping keep him safe so he can focus on his job. Visible over a quarter mile away while illuminating the wearer’s task area out to his visual periphery, The Halo Light™ is the ideal safety and task light.

Very simply stated, Hi-Vis PPE needs to fit properly to protect properly. Finding proper fitting hi-vis PPE like protective vests, hard hats, gloves and arm bands has been a common issue for many workers, especially women. Because most PPE has been designed based on average male body measurement data, finding both comfortable and effective protective wear for smaller body frames has often been a trade-off and safety took a back seat. Now, effective measures have been taken to change all of that.

Three different garment types were added:

  • Type O for Off-Road Use: (Includes Class 1) Provides added visibility to workers who are not exposed to traffic
  • Type R for Roadway Use: (Includes Class 2 & Class 3) Enhanced visibility for workers who are exposed to traffic against complex backgrounds
  • Type P for Public Safety Use: (Includes Class 2 & Class 3) Enhanced visibility for emergency responders and law enforcement personnel in roadway and off-road

Testing for Conformity

While the sizing options for HVSA have expanded, the safety and performance requirements have remained just as critical as before. In order to make certain allowances for smaller sizes, additional criteria must now be met. Garments must be identified by performance class, type and its flame resistant characteristics. The garment’s background material and retroreflective or combined-performance material must be tested by an accredited lab. And the manufacturer must verify through a Declaration of Conformity that the garment or headwear meets all the requirements of the standard.

Numbers don’t lie!

Noncompliance with PPE protocols is a huge problem. In a 2012 Kimberly Clark Professional survey, a staggering 82% of survey responders answered that they have seen workers not wearing proper safety equipment. When asked why, responders claimed that PPE equipment was too hot, uncomfortable, unavailable, unnecessary or ill fitting. Not only is that an injury waiting to happen, but that is a HUGE compliance issue for your company.

By providing properly fitting PPE and offering training on the different types of PPE necessary for each task, especially in applications when hi-visibility is required, you can ensure that your workers both understand their PPE and actually use it. Safety should always be a priority:  your workers’ safety is important so you can’t take any chances with the equipment meant to help protect them. The workforce comes in many different shapes and sizes, finding safety products that fit and protect doesn’t have to be a tradeoff.

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Topics: ANSI, Hi-Viz, PPE