5 Issues With Safety Vests and What to Do About Them


When you work in a dangerous job, you need to take advantage of every safety device possible. Sometimes just basic visibility, being seen, will keep you safest.

Wearing any kind of safety vest will make you safer than going without one. Your visibility alone will keep you safer on the job. 

So what can go wrong with a safety vest? Safety vests vary greatly from the custom safety vest to the high visibility shirt. Keep reading to learn the common issues that inhibit the full potential of safety vests as well as the ways to eliminate these issues. 

1. Choosing the Wrong Safety Vests

Not high visibility safety apparel is the same. Over 6,000 pedestrians died in road-side accidents in 2020. Many of these accidents would not have happened had those pedestrians had on basic high visibility apparel. 

Yet the same apparel does not work for all jobs that require visibility. Often times individuals have problems with their safety gear because they choose the wrong safety vests or high visibility gear. 

For example, a custom safety vest works best in an occupation that has extra gear. A basic construction vest may actually be a hindrance. 

As you look at safety equipment and wear, consider which type of vest would best fit the job for you. 

  • Reflective vests: work best for individuals who work on roads or other areas with low visibility. 
  • Flame-resistant vests: work best when you're exposed to flame and come with standards established by organizations like the National Fire Protection Association
  • Breakaway safety vests: designed specifically to break away if the owner finds their vest entangled in machinery.
  • Incident command vest: designed to indicate the wearer of the vest is the authority in charge of the operation

Look for a vest that best fits your job and role. If your vest does not have the necessary features for your job, examine the employee safety manual and talk to your boss. 

2. Wearing Your Vest Improperly

Vests worn improperly can cause all kinds of problems. Your discomfort can distract you from your work. Also, the actual fit of the vest can cause a safety hazard in your work, making the very thing that should keep you safer actually lead to unsafe conditions. 

If you or your workers find the safety vest uncomfortable or inconvenient to wear, they're more likely to forego wearing it, which can lead to accidents. Here are a few basic tips to follow to make sure vests fit properly. 

Similarly, a safety vest isn’t much good if it’s not being worn correctly. These tips will help ensure that your safety vest is meeting the needs of your workplace. 

Snug, Not Tight

Your safety vest should fit you fairly snugly. You want a vest that gives you room to move, but if you have a vest that is too loose and flaps around, you run the risk of it catching in equipment around you. 

You also want something that's not too tight. A tight vest will restrict movement and discourage the wearer from wearing it properly consistently. 

Fully Visible

The safety vest exists to help people see you. So if you cover it with stickers, garments, or decoration, you negate its purpose. If you want a custom safety vest for your operation, then look into a safety vest with a logo that represents your company. 

3. Wearing a Dirty Vest

Keep the vest clean. A dirty vest will also be less visible. So wash the vest regularly according to the care instructions on it. 

If you find yourself constantly needing to wash the vest, purchase a black-bordered vest that obscures the dirt. 

4. Not Wearing a Properly Rated Vest

Make sure the vest is up to the proper standard. There should be an ANSI rating on each vest. Make sure every vest in your operation has the proper rating. 

ANSI ratings come in three categories: class 1, class 2, and class 3. 

Engineers designed class 1 vests specifically for areas where traffic flow is under 25 mph. Workers work far away from traffic and have low risks. So they work best for parking attendances and roadside assistance workers. 

Class 2 vests are for individuals who work in heavier traffic and lower visibility areas. The weather could reduce the visibility in these workers' environment, and the traffic goes faster than 25 mph. These vests work best for airport workers, toll booth operators, forest workers, and individuals working in high-volume parking booths. 

Class 3 vests are the most highly visible vests. They exist for those who work in high-traffic areas. So emergency responders, utility crews, railway workers, and site inspectors should wear these. 

Each class of vests differs in the width of reflective tape used as well as the color. Gauge what your workers do and then purchase the best that works best to keep your workers safe. 

Follow Best Practices

A safety vest allows people to see you. It is not a magical defense against all injuries. So continue to follow best practices like staying out of blind spots of earthmovers or staying clear of traffic when you're working on the roadside. 

5. Choosing Poor Color and Marking Choices

Bright colors catch the eye. But there's a difference between orange and green and yellow, depending on where you're working. 

If you want to be highly visible, look into an orange and lime safety vest. Lime is brighter and works best for urban environments, especially since it stands out with neutral-colored building backdrops.

Orange works best in traffic because it mimics traffic barrels and cones. It also stands out well against green foliage. 

Make sure your vests have reflective striping as well. This striping should make an H or X pattern on the upper body. It can also be broken marking, making the vest more comfortable. 

Stay Bright, Stay Safe

When you follow the best practice for using safety vests, you and your workers will be much safer. You'll stand out against the backdrop, and motorists will avoid you. 

Do you need new highly visible safety apparel? Contact us today. We have a variety of options from shirts to vests, and we understand how to keep people safe in hazardous industries.