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Safety Vests 101

Safety Vests 101

Safety vests are a mandatory element in various work settings, including road work, tow truck operations, construction sites, manufacturing facilities, logistics, and more. These vests serve a vital purpose by enhancing the wearer's visibility and reducing the risk of accidents involving moving machinery such as cars and forklifts. In this guide, we will provide information on safety vest requirements, types, and proper care to help you navigate these essential safety measures.


Which Safety Vest to Wear

Determining when and which safety vest to wear can be a crucial decision. The specific requirements often depend on your employer's policies.

In most cases, companies have safety vest requirements that exceed the minimum standards set by regulations. To ensure compliance, it is essential to familiarize yourself with your company's safety vest policy.

Construction Safety Vest Requirements & Guidelines

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plays a pivotal role in setting construction safety standards in the United States.

OSHA mandates that workers wear high-visibility clothing meeting the ANSI/ISEA 107-2020 standard. This standard outlines the criteria for color, reflectivity, and the amount of retroreflective material necessary to maximize visibility on construction sites.


Safety Vest Classes

Safety vests are categorized into different "classes," each tailored to specific work environments.

  • Class 1 vests are the minimum requirement for low-risk situations.
  • Class 2 & 3 vests offer the highest visibility and are mandatory for high-risk environments such as road construction.


Material Colors

The ANSI/ISEA 107-2020 standard mandates that safety vests be crafted in highly visible colors such as neon yellow or orange. This ensures easy visibility on the job site, even from a distance.

The ANSI/ISEA 107-2020 standard also specifies the amount of background and retroreflective material required to enhance visibility under varying lighting conditions.


Reflective Tape

Reflective tape is a critical component of construction safety vests, enhancing visibility in low-light conditions. The standard mandates a minimum amount of reflective tape for each class of vest, with Class 3 vests having the most to ensure maximum visibility in high-risk environments.

While commonly referred to as "reflective tape," most vests feature retroreflective tape, which effectively reflects light back in the direction it came from.


Fabric & Material

Consider the weather conditions when choosing a safety vest. For hot and humid environments, breathable fabric is ideal.

  • Mesh safety vests are popular for hot summer days
  • Premium polyester vests offer durability



Safety vests should enhance your work, not hinder it. Vests can come with various features, such as:

  • Radio tabs
  • Tool loops
  • Grommets for dispensing flagging tape
  • Zippered pockets
  • Clear chest pockets for displaying IDs



Different styles of safety vests cater to specific needs. Hi-visibility vests, surveyor vests with equipment pockets, and breakaway vests are common options.

Some jobs may require specialty vests, such as the NYCTA Vest, which complies with specific New York City Transit Authority requirements for transit workers.


Proper Use & Care of Construction Safety Vests

Wearing a safety vest is more than just donning a piece of clothing; it's a critical step in ensuring job site safety. Proper fit, visibility, and care are essential. Ensure your vest fits securely and snugly, with the bottom no higher than your waistline and sides extending to your hips. Avoid covering it with other clothing or equipment, including fall harnesses, which should be worn underneath.

Maintaining a clean and well-maintained safety vest is crucial for continued visibility and safety. Follow the manufacturer's washing instructions, as some vests are machine washable, while others require hand cleaning. Air-drying is recommended to prevent damage to reflective tape. Store the vest in a cool, dry place when not in use.


Wearing a safety vest is an indispensable part of working in various industries, signaling your commitment to safety and accident prevention. By following these guidelines on safety vest selection, proper use, and maintenance, you can ensure you're doing your utmost to stay safe on the job site!



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