Health and Safety ReportVolume 13, Issue 3

On Topic

Reflections on Worker Visibilityprint this article

There is danger in the shadows. It could be working on a highway at night or in a loading bay at dusk. Low light and poor visibility can make it difficult to see workers, and this fact puts them at risk for serious injury or death.

Construction workers, emergency responders, and miners are examples of workers who are regularly exposed to the safety hazards associated with working near road traffic, moving construction machinery, and other moving industrial vehicles. This work is often done in low light and poor visibility conditions, increasing the risk of the worker not being seen. In Canada and the United States there are safety standards that specify what clothing or apparel can be used to visually signal that a worker is present. The apparel is designed to provide the user with conspicuity (high visibility) in hazardous situations under any light conditions and under illumination by vehicle headlights.

Conspicuity is enhanced by high contrast between clothing and the work environment against which it is seen. The CSA Standard Z96-09 (R2014) provides performance requirements for materials that should be used for high-visibility apparel and specifies classes of garments, minimum areas of coverage, and placement of these materials.

High-visibility safety apparel
High-visibility safety apparel includes clothing such as vests, bibs, and coveralls that workers can wear to improve how well other people "see" them (their visibility).

Why you need it
High-visibility safety apparel is required personal protective equipment (PPE) for Canadian workers in a number of workplaces. Requirements for Canadian workers are found in the CSA Standard Z96-09 (R2014) "High Visibility Safety Apparel" and in the related guideline "CSA Z96.1, Guideline on selection, use and care of high visibility safety apparel." The United States standard is the ANSI/ISEA 107-2010 American National Standard for High-visibility Safety Apparel and Headwear.

High-visibility safety apparel is needed if you work when there is low light and poor visibility, especially if you are working around moving vehicles including cars and trucks, or other machinery traveling under their own power such as forklifts and backhoes. High-visibility items allow you to be seen by the drivers of those vehicles sooner and more easily. High-visibility headwear can also be worn in situations where part or all of the wearer's body could be obscured by objects in the work environment such as leaves, trees, traffic barriers, and construction materials.

High-visibility materials
The human eye responds best to large, contrasting, bright, or moving objects. Workers are more easily seen when the colour of their clothing highly contrasts with the work environment against which it is seen. The materials used are usually fluorescent or retroreflective.

Fluorescent material takes a portion of invisible ultraviolet light from sunlight, and through special pigments, sends it back to the viewer as more visible light. This material only functions where there is a source of natural sunlight. Fluorescent material will appear brighter than the same coloured non-fluorescent material, especially under low natural light. These materials increase daytime visibility, especially at dawn and dusk. Fluorescent colours provide the greatest contrast against most backgrounds.

Retroreflective material returns light in the direction of the light's source. This property allows a driver to see the light being reflected from the retroreflective material on a person's garment when the person is standing in the light's beam. Retroreflective materials are most effective under low-light level conditions.

Tips for selecting high-visibility safety apparel


  • High-visibility safety apparel providing full body coverage, 360 degrees around the body, provides better conspicuity.
  • Garments should be fitted to the person, taking into account the bulk of the clothing that might be worn underneath the garments. The garments should sit correctly on your body and stay in place during your work.
  • Apparel should be comfortable.
  • Garments should be selected and worn so that no other clothing or equipment covers the high-visibility materials (e.g. gauntlets, equipment belts, and high-cut boots).
  • Daylight - Bright colours are more visible than dull colours under daylight conditions (e.g. fluorescent materials are suitable for daylight).
  • Low light conditions - Fluorescent colours are more effective than bright colours under low light (e.g. dawn and dusk) and reflective materials are also suggested.
  • Dark conditions/worksites - Retroreflective materials provide high-visibility conditions and are preferred over bright colours. Fluorescent materials are ineffective at night and less visible than white fabrics.

For more details and to learn about the different classes of high-visibility safety apparel refer to CCOHS' OSH Answers High-Visibility Safety Apparel Fact Sheet.

Illustrations from CSA Standard Z96-09 (R2014)

Additional Resources:

Partner News

Day of Mourning: Remembering and Renewing Commitment to Preventionprint this article

On average, every day in Canada two people die or get sick due to a disease or injury incurred from work-related causes - each one leaving a trail of pain for the families impacted by the loss of a husband, wife, father, mother, brother, sister, son or daughter. And most - if not all - are fatalities that could have been prevented.

To honour those workers across the country whose lives have been lost, who have been injured or disabled on the job, or suffer from occupational diseases, April 28th has been set aside as the National Day of Mourning. The Day of Mourning is an opportunity to not only remember, but also for employees and employers to publicly renew their commitment to preventing work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths and making workplaces safe and healthy for all.

This day of observance was established when the Workers Mourning Day Act was passed in December 1990. Since that time, various events are organized each year by labour organizations across the country to express remembrance for the family, friends, and colleagues who have suffered in carrying out workplace duties. The Canadian flag on Parliament Hill will fly at half-mast. Workers will light candles, don ribbons and black armbands, and observe moments of silence.

Over the years, the day of observance known in most other countries as the Workers' Memorial Day, has spread around the world and is now an international day of remembrance of workers killed in incidents at work, or by diseases caused by work. In addition, the International Labour Organization (ILO) celebrates the World Day for Safety and Health at Work on April 28th to promote the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases globally.

Up close and personal
Stories of people who have suffered the loss of a limb or a loved one from a work-related injury bring the statistics to life and put faces to the numbers. CCOHS has recorded podcasts with two victims of workplace tragedies who share their personal journeys.

Bill Bowman lost his arm as a young worker. Now, decades later he shares his story of loss and how he and his family were impacted by this life altering injury.

Listen to this nine-minute podcast: Workplace Injuries: A Personal Story.

Shirley Hickman's life changed forever when her son Tim was killed on the job just shy of his twenty-first birthday. Shirley shares her painful journey and what inspired her to create the Threads of Life organization, which supports workers and their families who are affected by life-altering workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths.

Listen to this nine-minute podcast: Shirley Hickman - A Mother's Story.

Watch Steve Horvath, President and CEO of CCOHS, discuss the Day of Mourning in conversation on YouTube.

You can show your support on Facebook with a Day of Mourning cover image or by wearing a Day of Mourning commemorative pin. To raise awareness you can download and display the free posters in your workplace.

The CCOHS website has more information about the National Day of Mourning.

For further statistical information, visit AWCBC National Work Injuries Statistics Program.

Find a Steps for Life walk in your community.


Podcasts: Dust Busters, Combustibles and Explosionsprint this article

This month's Health and Safety To Go! podcasts explain the hazards of dust, and detail the ergonomic risk factors of office work.

Feature Podcast: Dust Busters, Combustibles and Explosions
CCOHS explains how dust explosions occur and what can be done to prevent them from happening.

The podcast runs 5:02 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.

Podcast 2: Ergonomic Risk Factors of Office Work
While office work may seem harmless, prolonged sitting, typing on a keyboard and using a mouse for hours at a time every day can set the stage for musculoskeletal injuries. In this podcast, the CCOHS explains the three ergonomic risk factors of office work.

The podcast runs 4:36 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.

CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips, and insights into the health, safety, and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience... or on the go!

See the complete list of podcast topics. Better yet, subscribe to the series on iTunes and don't miss a single episode.

Workplace Health & Safety Matters

To Serve and Protectprint this article

Workplace Health and Safety Matters is the blog of Steve Horvath, President and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. In his latest blog post, Steve shares some insights learned from his participation in a conference hosted by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) focussing on mental health issues in policing such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

To Serve and Protect. This is a simple but powerful statement displayed on police cruisers, and yet I think I’ve taken it for granted – a realization I made while attending a conference hosted by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP). Two hundred and fifty representatives from police forces across Canada were brought together for two days to focus on the advancement of mental health issues in policing such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – an amazing accomplishment that speaks to the priority the association has placed on this problem.

Officers are trained to not only provide support to their communities but to be compassionate and caring every day to individuals in despair. They understand their role and the expectations society places on them and I’m sure that doesn’t come without stressors; after all, the risks are high in this line of work. As I sat there listening to each speaker, one reoccurring thought kept plaguing me. This passion to protect the community needs to be turned inward and focused on mental health to help protect themselves and their fellow officers. After all, if we can’t take care of ourselves, how can we take care of others?

That’s why I believe that early intervention is the key to creating a mentally healthy workplace. Officers are best positioned to recognize early on-set of changes in behavior in their co-workers and to respond with encouragement and guidance to seek help before it deteriorates into a debilitating illness. This is the concept of creating a culture of caregivers in the workplace that I have spoken about. It is the ability to look at themselves and their peers with the same lens that they look at others.

Throughout the conference, there was recognition of the unique challenges facing police services, including not only the external factors associated with working in a high-risk line of work, engaging with the public and exposure to the inherent realities of being a first responder, but also the organizational and cultural aspect of policing. There was a sense of urgency, collective will and common sense of purpose because it is a shared crisis that, given particular circumstances, could overwhelm any of us.

Despite the fact that the aggregate of these factors makes this seem like a daunting task, I participated in discussions and witnessed a positive attitude that left me full of optimism that the police services across Canada have chosen to tackle this mental health issue head-on. There were certainly difficult and honest discussions from those sharing their personal struggles with work issues, but I am convinced we would not have had this conversation in such a broad forum only a couple of years ago. The fact that all these officers continue to not only contribute , but thrive in their careers after debilitating challenges is a testimony to how far police services have progressed in a short period of time. Peer support and leadership is the foundation of any successful anti-stigma campaign, leading to an early intervention and a mentally healthy workplace.

Openly confronting issues of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and stress shows real progress, leadership, and commitment to staff, as well as a willingness to adopt meaningful cultural change towards creating a climate of mutual support. I am convinced that organization wide resiliency can be found in the comradeship and support for which the policing community is known.

Read Steve's blog, Workplace Health and Safety Matters.

Last Word.

Sound Off to Us and You Could Win a Bluetooth Speakerprint this article

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