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High-Visibility Clothing: Protection from Traffic, Harsh Weather and More

By Don Kubly, Technical Support – AW Direct

Tow truck operators work in an environment where personal protective clothing is a must to be safe on the job. Wearing high-visibility clothing when on a roadway and around or near moving traffic makes the operator more visible. Protective clothing is available for when an operator is working near low- and high-speed traffic, in warm or cold weather, where insulation and waterproofing are required, and for when an operator is performing light-duty or heavy-duty work.

The first step in choosing appropriate work clothing is to make sure it complies with ANSI/ISEA standards. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited a standard developed in 1999 by the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) regarding workwear. This standard, ANSI/ISEA 107, High-Visibility Safety Apparel and Headwear, requires a variety of work clothing to meet certain standards of visibility according to various work situations. Numerous federal and state authorities have mandated this standard. Most importantly, the Federal Highway Administration requires compliance from nearly all highway workers. Different classes specify the different requirements for particular work situations, and these classes are as follows:

Class 1 garments need to be conspicuous but are intended for workers where traffic does not exceed 25 mph and there is separation from traffic.

Class 2 garments have higher visibility than Class 1 clothing, but not as much as Class 3. They are intended for work near roadways where traffic exceeds 25 mph and when inclement weather conditions limit visibility.

Class 3 garments offer the highest level of visibility. They are designed for road personnel with high task loads in a wide variety of weather conditions where traffic exceeds 50 mph. Garments for these workers should provide enhanced visibility to more of the body, such as the arms and legs.

There are many workwear options that comply with these standards, and a discussion of what
is available may help you in choosing the best option that complies with visibility standards and
suits your own work needs and preferences.

Vests are available with a number of features and in a variety of styles, such as with or without sleeves, mesh or solid material construction and zipper or loop closure. To prevent danger from snagging or mechanical entanglement, breakaway vests are available that are easily torn away. Some vests have a variety of pocket features like five outside pockets, two lower inside pockets and an outside radio/phone pocket. Vests come in men’s, women’s and unisex fits.

A large variety of rainwear is available in water resistant and waterproof materials with or without liners. When dealing with fire or the potential of fire, flame-resistant rainwear is also available. Rainwear can be made of polyester fabric in order to be lightweight, breathable and water resistant for warmer weather and light-duty applications. For heavy-duty applications,
rainwear made with .35mm PVC coated polyester for snag resistance and greater cut resistance is available. When choosing rainwear, most operators prefer bibs or elastic waist pants and snap-on hoods.

Jackets, coats, pants, bibs, parkas and jumpsuits are available in lightweight, medium weight and heavyweight material and can be insulated and non-insulated. Some jackets have the added benefit of removable liners for use in various weather conditions.

Jackets generally have a knit wristband for a snug fit, while coats are usually about two or more inches longer without a waistband so they will hang below the waistline. Parkas are typically insulated and designed for cold weather; some have a draw cord to tighten up the parka around the bottom. Jackets are available in both men’s and women’s fits.

While not directly included in the ANSI/ISEA standards, high-visibility accessory clothing items such as gloves, gaiters, etc. also increase contrast and increase the likelihood of being seen. Gloves are available with good dexterity and grip, with or without lining, with or without insulation, waterproofing, abrasion resistance, long-wear leather palms and cut and impact
protection for extrication or rescue work. Many gloves are now available with high-visibility and reflective stripes by the knuckle area. A basic work glove with a nylon back and knuckle area provides ease of movement and great dexterity, and a loop closure makes it easy to take the glove on and off.

Gloves made with pigskin leather have excellent durability and abrasion resistance. They work great for tough jobs such as handling chains or blocks. Pigskin gloves are available with several options including with or without lining, waterproofing and safety or elastic cuffs.

Hats are available for all seasons and weather types. They are available in light and heavy weights and a variety of high-visibility color options. Regular knit hats are available with and without brims for cold weather protection. Also available are baseball caps, wide brim bucket hats with mesh panels and Outback hats for summer sun protection.

High-visibility accessories like arm and ankle bands and colored retroreflective sew-on fabric tape are available to help add visibility to your uniform.

***Please Note: Reflective clothing does wear out over time. Clothing that is dirty from use does not provide the same visual contrast of a new garment. Each washing also gradually reduces the color intensity in the background material and reflectivity of the striping. Some manufacturers do limit the number of washings to maintain the product’s effectiveness and once this limit is reached the items need to be taken out of service.

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(800) 243-3194
www.awdirect.com