High visibility gear is often one of those things that you know when you see it, but what if you’ve never really seen it? OSHA has pretty specific standards for different types of work environments and what high visibility means for each of them. Make sure your guys are outfitted properly for safety (and to keep OSHA happy).
Types of OSHA Visibility
Strictly speaking, OSHA has established three main standards, depending on what environment in which your team works. When you’re looking for gear, it’s going to be listed as Type:
O. “O” is for off-road, meaning that the risk of hit-by-vehicle is present, but lowest because workers are not exposed to traffic on public highways or in temporary traffic control (TTC) zones. That might include workers working in warehouses, on quiet residential roads or in the oil and gas industry.
R. “Roadway” apparel is meant for workers exposed to highway traffic, TTC zones or heavy equipment within TTC zones. If you do a lot of road work or pave or repair parking lots, you probably need Type R high visibility gear.
P. This type of gear is generally reserved for emergency personnel, but if you’re ever involved in road closures or work with firefighters, accident site investigation or emergency response, keep it on hand. Type P hazards are the riskiest – don’t take a chance with your workers’ lives.
Unfortunately, the OSHA visibility type isn’t the end of things, you’ll also need to pay attention to the performance class within which your chosen gear falls.
OSHA Performance Classes
Along with the visibility types defined by OSHA, there are performance classes. These ratings help better define the minimum combinations of background material and reflective materials in order to maximize safety.
These are the performance classes:
- Only appropriate for Type O environments, Performance Class 1 is the most lax standard available for contractors today. The minimum for background fabric is 217 square inches, and the gear must differentiate the wearer from a non-complex work environment.
- Considered the minimum level of protection in roadway environments, Performance Class 2 is useful for both Type R and Type P areas. In a Type R environment, at least 775 square inches of the garment must be background fabric, in Type P, 450 square inches.
- Class 3 protection has a much more rigorous standard, including disallowing any garment without sleeves worn alone. It’s meant to protect workers in busy environments where there are often many cars. Type R environments require 1240 square inches of background fabric, Type P, 775 square inches.
- Supplemental Class E garments include items like pants, overalls, shorts and gaiters. Worn alone, they will not meet any level of OSHA requirement, but when worn with either Class 2 or Class 3 garments, the entire outfit becomes a Class 3 automatically. Accessories like headwear and gloves aren’t considered to fall within Class E (therefore can’t be used in the overall calculation for Performance Class), but the more visible your people are, the more the risk to their lives is reduced.
That Exception to the Rule
There’s always an exception, even with OSHA high visibility work gear. If your team happens to have some people wearing the smallest sizes available, your requirements for those workers only are lower. This only applies to Class R, Class P doesn’t change regardless of worker size.
For Class 2, Type R, your worker meets the minimum with 540 square inches of background material. For Class 3, Type R, they need 1000 square inches, but remember this can include pants, shorts, overalls, and similar clothing. These guideline alternatives ensure that even your smallest worker can be OSHA compliant without navigating an additional safety hazard from wearing the wrong size of clothing.
Are your guys’ OSHA High Vis compliant? What colors do you think work best in your work environments? Tell us about it in the comments!