Why Are Safety Vests Required By OSHA?

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires workers who may be exposed to vehicular traffic hazards to wear safety vests or other high-visibility safety apparel. OSHA guidelines refer to American National Standards Institute standard 107, which was developed and published by the International Safety Equipment Association. Find out why OSHA requires workers in high-risk environments to wear brightly colored garments made with retroreflective materials and learn more about the requirements for warning vests in ANSI/ISEA 107-2020.

Why OSHA Requires Safety Vests

The General Duty Clause of OSHA or OSH Act, 29 U.S.C. §654(a)(1) requires flaggers and other workers exposed to vehicle traffic in construction zones, on excavation sites or on highways to wear high-visibility safety apparel. Bright vests with retroreflective designs can help drivers of motor vehicles or operators of equipment see workers near the path of travel.

One specific OSHA requirement for warning vests is in the construction standard Subpart G, 29 CFR 1926.201 on signaling. This standard states that garments for flaggers must conform to Part 6 of the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. The section on Temporary Traffic Control in the MUTCD states that all workers exposed to traffic, including emergency responders, must wear Class 2 or Class 3 vests and garments.

Another relevant federal standard is the Federal Highway Administration rule for Worker Visibility, 23 CFR Part 634. This rule mandates that all workers exposed to traffic or construction equipment within the right-of-way of a federal-aid highway wear safety vests or other HVSA.

Safety Vest Requirements

Safety Vest Required Signs

OSHA Notice High Visibility Vest Required Sign with Vest SymbolAll Personnel Must Sear Reflective Vest in Yard SignOSHA Notice Drivers: High Visibility Vest Must Be Worn SignYellow OSHA Caution Hard Hat and High Visibility Vest Required In This Area Sign

The OSHA construction standard on signaling recommends that flaggers wear red or orange warning garments and specifies that garments worn at night should be made of reflectorized material. This regulation refers to an early ANSI standard, D6.1-1-1971, that has since been updated.

A 2002 OSHA interpretation of the 1926.201 standard refers to the Millennium Edition of the MUTCD, which allows for a wider range of color choices. During the day, flaggers can wear safety vests in orange, yellow or strong yellow-green, or fluorescent versions of these colors. At night, flaggers should wear garments made with retroreflective materials in any of these colors, silver or white. Employers can post an OSHA notice or other signs to remind workers to wear warning vests.

While OSHA does not specify a specific type of garment, fasteners or reflective strip design, the ANSI/ISEA 107 standard covers all of these requirements. Warning vests and other HVSA should be visible from at least 1,000 feet away and have break-away enclosures. Learn more about the classes of warning vests to select the right high-visibility personal protective equipment.

Safety Vest Classes

According to ANSI/ISEA 107-2020 there are three classes and three types of safety vests, each with different requirements for background and retroreflective material. The classes of vests are based on risk levels in different working environments.

Class 1

Class 1 vests are made with the minimum amount of high-visibility material. These warning vests are only suitable for environments in which struck-by hazards travel at 25 miles per hour or less. The first class of vests are ideal for grocery store clerks who retrieve shopping carts, parking service attendants or warehouse workers.

Class 2

Class 2 is the most common safety vest classification. These vests can increase visibility to a level that is sufficient for roadways with fast traffic during daylight hours. The second class of vests are intended for airport ground crews, crossing guards, law enforcement personnel directing traffic, surveyors and workers in parking facilities or at toll gates.

Class 3

The third class of safety vests provides the highest level of visibility. These garments have sleeves designed with retroreflective material and are suitable for night work in locations that have high-speed traffic. In order to meet OSHA standards, Class 3 vests should be visible from a distance of at least 1,280 feet.

Safety Vest Types

The 2015 version of ANSI/ISEA 107 introduced a new categorical scheme for warning vests. A revision in 2020 refined the applications for each type of vest. Learn more about the three types of vests and how these types correspond to vest classes.

Type O

Type O equipment consists of Class 1 safety vests designated for off-road usage. These vests must have at least 217 square inches of background material, 155 square inches of retroreflective material and a 1-inch minimum width for retroreflective materials.

Type R

Type R, Class 2 vests are designed to increase the visibility of workers on roadways. These vests must have at least 540 square inches in background material in the smallest size or 775 square inches of background material in larger sizes with 201 square inches of retroreflective material.

Type P

Type P vests for public safety professionals are available in Class 2 or Class 3 designs. Class 2, Type P vests must have 450 square inches of background material and 201 square inches of retroreflective material. Class 3, Type P vests should have at least 775 square inches of background material and 310 square inches of retroreflective materials.

When To Replace Safety Vests

The Federal Highway Administration estimates a six-month service life for HVSA worn on a daily basis. This PPE can last up to three years with occasional use. For safety, replace any damaged, faded or worn vests and other high-visibility garments.

Warning vests and safety garments should also have a good fit. Vests that are too large could pose a caught-in hazard, while vests that are too tight can be uncomfortable and discourage compliance with safety regulations.

Employers should factor in the classes and types of vests when ordering replacement PPE or setting employee purchase requirements. The ANSI/ISEA 107 standard also provides recommendations for including compliant lettering or logos on HVSA.

Post Signs for Safety Vests

Employers should refer to OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1926.651(d) or other relevant standards to determine whether workers need to wear safety vests and the appropriate class and type of safety vest for any application. Order OSHA notices and signs that remind workers to use high-visibility PPE from ComplianceSigns.