What Is Safety Apparel and Who Needs To Wear It?


In 2020, it's estimated that over 102,000 work zone crashes occurred, which resulted in over 45,000 injuries and 857 fatalities.

What's causing all these roadside accidents? Careless drivers, cell phones, and visibility are sure to be at the top of the list as causes. 

If you have employees who face a potential risk of being visible while working, they must wear safety apparel for protection.  You don't want to find yourself making one of those fateful calls about a terrible accident involving one of your employees. 

Read on to learn more about who should always wear hi-vis safety apparel and what those options include.

What Is High-Vis Clothing?

Hi-vis clothing is the many different types of safety apparel workers might wear to make themselves more visible for safety purposes. This might include clothing like:

  • Safety vests
  • High visibility shirts
  • High visibility jackets
  • Pants with reflective material
  • High visibility vests
  • High visibility coveralls

These different safety clothing items should make the worker more visible in their work environment. 

While there are some specific times when OSHA requires safety apparel (more on this later), anytime a worker works in a low-light area, they should wear safety apparel. 

Workers should also wear safety apparel if they work around moving vehicles or construction equipment. This type of equipment often has reduced visibility for the operator. 

The goal would be for workers to wear safety apparel that is easily discernible in any work environment and has reflective properties. 

Who Should Wear High Visibility Safety Apparel?

There are a few times when OSHA requires workers to be in hi-vis safety apparel. There are two specific situations that OSHA requires workers to wear safety apparel. These include:

  1. When they work as flaggers in road construction
  2. When as part of their job, they are exposed to public vehicular traffic

Having said that, other road construction workers run the risk of being exposed to the danger of being struck by vehicles and should absolutely wear safety apparel.

Any worker who works around other moving vehicles or low visibility should wear safety apparel. Workers in active construction zones or road construction zones need safety equipment. 

Workers in other situations, like airline baggage handlers or delivery workers around large machinery with limited visibility, should wear safety apparel. 

Some state laws might require wearing safety gear as part of the job in addition to the OSHA requirements.

Do Your Employees Need Safety Apparel?

You already know that OSHA requires highway construction workers who work near traffic and large equipment to wear the hi-vis clothing. Those who work as flaggers must also be in safety apparel. 

Beyond that the requirements vary from state to state. 

Most who work in construction, jobsites, or in industrial settings with heavy equipment will opt to wear safety gear including things like construction vets or  safety vests.

Employees in these work environments almost always wear safety apparel, including:

  • Delivery people in high traffic areas
  • General construction
  • Airport workers
  • Warehouse workers
  • Linesmen
  • Highway maintenance jobs
  • Public safety officers

The simple fact as an employer is that you need and want your employees to be safe. Whether it's required or not by law, you make your rules and expectations for employees. 

If your employees work in a situation where they could face a hazard or visibility risk, you want to require them to wear the appropriate form of safety wear.

Safety Standards for Hi-Vis Clothing

Instead of who needs to wear it, let's also consider the safety standards that are in place for safety apparel. The American National Standards Institute and the International Safety Equipment Association (ANSI and ISEA) are both involved with establishing guidelines for safety apparel. 

They establish garment design requirements for the industry. There are requirements in place for multiple garment types, including:

  • High-visibility vests
  • High-visibility jackets
  • Safety pants
  • High-visibility overalls
  • High-visibility shirts and sweatshirts

The standards establish five different classes of performance gear within the different types of clothing. The different classes spell out how visibility is required and the amount of reflective tape that needs to be a part of the clothing and where it should be placed.

Safety Apparel Considerations

OSHA requires personal protection equipment whenever an employee might get exposure to a potential hazard. Hazards can include things like reduced visibility and high traffic areas that workers in construction often face. 

To meet with the in place OSHA standards, safety apparel has to consider the type of potential hazard they'll be used against, including:

  • Temperature extremes
  • Impacts from vehicles, machinery, or tools
  • Splashes from chemicals or hot liquids
  • Handling contaminants, hazardous materials, or pesticides

Not only does the safety apparel need to meet the standards in place by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), it's also important that the safety gear be comfortable to wear and fit properly.

Types of Garments

One priority for you as an employer is training so your employees understand the expectations related to safety gear. They also need to have a clear understanding of why the safety gear is required and what gear they should wear. 

Different types of garments meet different safety needs. Some safety garments include:

  • Safety vests, highly visible and used when working outdoors or near traffic areas
  • Coveralls when painting, patching, liquids, or spraying pesticides
  • Waterproof aprons and garments to  protect against water and other dangerous splashes
  • Fire retardant overalls and coveralls
  • Flame-resistant PPE apparel 
  • Chemical-resistant apparel

Consider the types of risks your employees face to get the best protective gear for them.

Protect Yourself and Your Employees

Safety apparel is a necessary safety measure when employees are out doing their work and facing potential dangers. 

If you need help deciding on the best gear for your employees, we can help. Contact us today to learn more about our hi-vis clothing and safety apparel options.