Safety Vests Improve Visibility in the Workplace

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Photo courtesy of the Oregon Department of Transportation via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most important forklift accessories has nothing at all to do with the fork truck itself: The safety vest.

An increasing amount of  for their forklift operators. That’s because they make drivers more visible to other people, especially while working in dark or dimly lit warehouses or while operating the vehicle outdoors at night.

Safety Vest Improvements

If you haven’t worn a safety vest recently, you may be surprised by some of the improvements that make this widely used article of safety clothing more effective and comfortable for workers. Today’s vests are lighter, brighter and more reflective than safety vests worn by previous generations of forklift operators.

Safety vests that are going to be used in higher traffic areas must be approved for use by the American National Standards institute (ANSI) and the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). These are known as Class 2, or ANSI approved, safety vests and can only come in day-glo orange, florescent yellow and lime green.

Class 2 safety vests are the most common type used in industrial settings.

But these approvals aren’t necessary for use in low-risk Class 1 environments, such as those worn by commercial parking lot attendants or some school crossing guards. While Class 1 vests usually are orange, yellow or lime green, other colors may be used.

Class 3 ANSI- approved safety vests also can be orange, yellow, lime green, white or silver and are more highly reflective than Class 2 vests. Class 3 vests are typically worn at night for improved visibility in the dark and are required to be worn by worker on federal highways or in some construction zones.

Types of Materials

The material that safety vests are made from depend on the environments in which they will be used. The most common type of safety vests are made from 100% polyester.

Mesh vests help keep the driver cooler in warmer conditions because they are lighter and because the holes allow air to flow through them. Some inexpensive safety vests are made of vinyl that is orange or yellow and has some reflective ability.

There are even some safety vests that have built-in electrical lighting so that they can be clearly seen even in pitch black conditions. Some feature a light source that illuminates the entire vest while others feature horizontal or vertical strips lit up with tiny lights. Another type of light up vest uses a light emitting diode (LED) to make the vest visible while the driver is working.

Increased Visibility Outside the Workplace

When worn in construction zones, safety vests help minimize traffic fatalities because motorists can see workers more clearly — even when they are zipping past at high speeds.

But forklift operators and highway workers aren’t the only ones wearing safety vests these days. Most states now require game hunters to wear safety vests so that they are more visible to other hunters.

And running enthusiasts who jog on or near roadways often wear vests so that drivers can see them better.


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