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High Vis 101: What You Need to Know Now

When you're working in a hazardous environment, it's essential to wear clothing that will allow other people to see you easily. This is why high visibility clothing is so important. There are many different types of hi vis clothing available on the market today, and it can be confusing to know which ones you need. In this blog post, we will discuss the different types of high visibility clothing and explain why each one is important. Stay safe out there!

One of the most important types of high visibility clothing is a reflective vest. Vests are typically made from a bright, fluorescent material that reflects light well. They are often worn over other clothes to make sure that you are visible from all angles. If you work in an environment where there is a lot of traffic or machinery, it's a good idea to wear a vest. In a lot of work environments now, tee shirts and vests are worn for the same level of visibility, and you may only see vests on people who wear High Vis periodically, or who require pocket space for notepads, radios, and other equipment.

Another type of high visibility clothing is a reflective jacket or sweater. Jackets and sweaters are usually made from a thicker material, which offers more body coverage than a tee shirt or vest, and also helps to keep workers warm in colder weather. Sweaters and jackets may be used by people who are protecting from the elements, or that require High Vis stripes on their sleeves for the type of work being performed.

There are also many different types of high visibility pants available. These pants are usually made from a light-colored fabric that reflects light well. They are a good choice for people who need to be visible from a distance. High visibility pants are often worn by construction workers, utility workers, and security guards. High Vis pants and bibs are worn in combination with sweaters, jackets, or tee shirts to raise the class and level of protection the worker has on to suit the environment or tasks.

If you work in an environment where you need to be highly visible, it's important to choose the right type of clothing. High visibility clothing can help you stay safe and avoid accidents. Be sure to check out all the different types of high visibility clothing before you make your final decision.

Along with the identified need to keep workers visible in different work environments, workers and employers must make sure that the high visibility clothing being worn meets or exceeds the requirements of local regulations and national standards. In Canada, the CSA Standard for high visibility clothing is CSA Z96. The most recent standard is the 2022 version, which has made a few changes and modifications to the previous 2015 version, including requirements for bib overalls. Bib overalls must be worn with another piece of clothing to put them into a Class 2 or Class 3 category.

Some of the most important points to remember about High Visibility clothing are:

  • Immediately replace any clothing that is heavily worn, torn, contaminated or soiled

  • Some retail stores, outlets, and surplus stores sell less expensive High Vis clothing; however it may not meet the most recent standards

  • Make sure that other requirements of the job are being met with the High Vis clothing; some workers must wear special clothing materials for mining, rail work, energized electrical, or high heat and explosive areas

  • Ensure that the clothing being worn meets the requirements of the employer as well as the current CSA standard

A breakdown of Class and Level of High Visibility clothing from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety (CCOHS - ) is listed below, but also keep in mind that your employer or a general contractor may require workers to go above and beyond what is required in the standards and regulations.

Remember that GGS is here to support you with all your Health & Safety needs. Whether you’re beginning your PPE program, struggling to understand what your team needs to wear on the job, or putting together and mobilizing for a project that requires PPE you’re not used to – we are here to help.

Experience is the best teacher. Use ours.

Low Risk: Class 2, Class 1 under certain conditions

Figure 1

Example of Class 1 Apparel

Harness or Colour/Retroreflective Stripes on Other Clothing

NOTE: Other options are possible, including a shirt made of non-high-visibility material, but with high-visibility or retroreflective stripes/bands.

Low risk situations may include:

  • Workers performing activities that permit their full and undivided attention to approaching traffic.

  • When there is ample separation between workers on foot and traffic or other mobile equipment.

  • When work backgrounds are not complex, allowing for optimal visibility.

  • When vehicles do not exceed 40 km/h (25 mph).

  • When workers are doing tasks that divert their attention from approaching traffic.

Examples of jobs include:

  • Workers directing vehicle operators to parking or service locations.

  • Workers retrieving shopping carts in parking areas.

  • Workers in warehouse operations.

  • "Right-of-Way" or sidewalk maintenance workers.

  • Workers in shipping or receiving operations.

Medium Risk: Class 2 or 3 based on certain conditions

Figure 2 Examples of Class 2 Apparel Vests, Jackets and Bib overalls

NOTE: These examples are not the only options available and are shown for example purposes.

Medium risk situations may include:

  • When vehicles or equipment are moving between 40-80 km/h (25-50 mph).

  • Workers who require greater visibility under inclement weather conditions or low light.

  • When work backgrounds are complex.

  • When workers are performing tasks that divert attention from approaching vehicle traffic.

  • When work activities are in closer proximity to vehicles (in or near flowing vehicle traffic).

Examples of jobs include:

  • Roadway construction, utility, forestry or railway workers.

  • Manufacturing, plant, or mill workers.

  • Survey crews.

  • School crossing guards.

  • Parking and toll gate workers.

  • Airport baggage handlers and ground crews.

  • Emergency response personnel.

  • Members of law enforcement.

  • Accident site investigators.

  • Railway workers.

High Risk: Class 2 for daytime, Class 3 for low-light conditions

Figure 3 Examples of Class 3 Apparel Jackets and Overalls

NOTE: These examples are not the only options available and are shown for example purposes.

High risk situations may include:

  • Vehicle speeds exceeding 80 km/h (50 mph).

  • Workers on foot and vehicle operators have high task loads that clearly place the worker in danger.

  • When the wearer must be conspicuous through the full range of body motions at a minimum of 390 m (1,280 ft).

  • Work activities taking place in low light or at nighttime.

Examples of jobs include:

  • Roadway construction workers.

  • Utility workers.

  • Survey crews.

  • Mine workers.

  • Emergency responders.

  • Road assistance or courtesy patrols.

  • Flagging crews.

  • Towing operators.

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