Safety Vests Improve Visibility in the Workplace

Photo courtesy of the US Dept of Labor (via Wikimedia Commons)

Requiring employees to wear brightly colored safety vests while driving forklifts or working around vehicles can help reduce workplace injuries and keep businesses running more productively and profitably.

Safety vests are lightweight outwear that feature dayglo green, orange, or yellow colors as well as light reflective strips. They allow employees wearing the vests to be seen more visibly at both long distances and up close. Combined with other safety equipment such as hard hats and protective safety goggles, they provide the personal protective equipment (PPE) that can save lives and protect businesses.

Mandatory vs Optional

Federal guidelines require some specific occupations to always wear safety vests. These include first responders such as police, fire, and emergency management services personnel, as well as some construction personnel. For most other occupations, including warehouse workers and forklift operators, the use of safety vests may not always be mandated by law but are offered as an option to improve visibility and increase safety.

Even though some safety vests may not legally be required, they should be worn by all employees in workplaces where there is moving pieces of machinery such as forklifts, automated guided vehicles, power jacks, and other heavy equipment. The reason is simple: Anytime there is a risk of collision between humans and heavy machines, the human is at the disadvantage. So any measures that can be taken to mitigate that risk should be taken.

Benefits of Safety Vests

While the biggest benefit of safety vests is increased awareness of the presence of human workers, it’s not the only upside. Safety vests can help identify who is authorized to be in a workspace and who is not. When people not wearing safety vests are seen crossing areas where forklifts typically move they usually don’t belong there.

Brightly colored safety vests can also help identify workers in event of an emergency, making it easier for injured workers to be located by rescue personnel.

Safety vests also can be branded, promoting business names, logos, or trademarks while simultaneously increasing workplace safety.  Or workers names can be stenciled onto the back of the safety vests to help management more easily identify who is working where and when.

Overcoming Worker Resistance

It’s common for some workers to resist wearing safety vests all the time. Excuses include that they are too bulky, too hot, too cumbersome to put on all the time, or that it’s simply too difficult to remember to wear them. Yet when management explains the benefits to safety and security, usually these objections can be easily overcome.

Bright, reflective safety vests are an essential part of any busy workplace. They are effective at reducing injuries and saving lives.

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