WILMINGTON, MA by Ronald D. Croatti - Are you hoping to get a piece of the $27.5 billion in Federal funding available for highway and bridge construction projects under the Obama Administration's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act? Then your thinking should be colored, to some extent, by bright yellow and brilliant orange — the two standard colors used in safety-rated high visibility work apparel.
That's because the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) says recipients of any "stimulus" funding will ultimately be expected to follow its new "Worker Visibility Rule" that states workers must wear ANSI 107-2004 Class 2 or Class 3 high visibility clothing when working on government funded roadways and bridges. In issuing a rationale for the apparel requirement, the FHWA pointed toward national statistics that show approximately 1,000 workers accidentally die each year as the result of vehicle operators striking "unseen" construction site workers, which include paving, excavation, towing, flagging, emergency responder personnel, etc.
Given the extensive funding being made available by the FHWA, construction and other companies that previously used simple high visibility vests for roadway safety purposes are now reportedly using them in conjunction with high visibility work shirts. "That's because high visibility shirts are worn as part of everyday workwear and not routinely taken on and off at work sites; that means they provide greater assurance for continuous, 360-degree visibility and uninterrupted compliance with federal regulations," says Kevin Grimac, a safety product manager for UniFirst, a provider of work apparel to companies throughout North America. "We typically recommend ANSI Class 2 work shirts, since they meet most high visibility requirements. Then, as conditions warrant and compliance dictates, we recommend work site employees add a Class 3 vest over their high visibility work shirts to produce an even greater safety uniform combination."
Types of high visibility clothing selections aside, Grimac offers a cautionary note concerning their ultimate manufacturing source. "Whether you're renting, leasing or buying, always use a reputable industrial garment supplier. Doing so helps ensure ANSI safety rating guidelines are truly being met. Besides quality base materials, the top manufactures routinely use proven Scotchlite™ reflective striping from 3M™; and not cheaper ‘knock-off' versions like some ‘super discounters' often use. Always remember when costs go down because of sub-par quality levels, safety risks typically go up."
The selection of whether to wear ANSI Class 2 or Class 3 safety apparel to comply with the new regulations is based on a worker's proximity to traffic, the speed of anticipated traffic, and whether the job responsibilities of workers allow them to pay attention to surrounding or oncoming traffic.
"As the amount of fluorescent and retro-reflective materials and body coverage in high visibility garments goes up, so does their respective Class ratings," Grimac says. Typical occupations requiring Class 2 high visibility apparel would include roadside construction staff, utility workers, and delivery drivers — essentially anyone who would be exposed to vehicles traveling at 25-50 mph; Class 3 would include more major construction personnel, survey crews, and emergency responders who would be exposed to vehicles traveling at speeds in excess of 50 mph and whose attention requires them to pay closer attention to their work tasks.
Ultimately, no matter if the apparel in question is bright yellow or brilliant orange, construction companies that outfit their workers in high visibility apparel will always be seen as award winners when it comes to their workers' safety.
UniFirst (NYSE: UNF), a North American leader in the supply and servicing of uniforms, workwear, and protective clothing, outfits more than 1.5 million workers each business day. The company's most popular brands include UniWeave®, SofTwill®, UniWear®, and Armorex FR®. UniFirst also offers Facility Service Programs including floor mats, mops, and restroom products. For more information, contact UniFirst at 800-455-7654 or visit www.unifirst.com.