Tips On Worker Visibility

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


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.

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.

Here are some tips for selecting high-visibility safety apparel:

High-visibility safety apparel should provide full body coverage, 360 degrees around the body, provides better conspicuity.

When it comes to fit, 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. Also, apparel should be comfortable and 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).


When it comes to brightness, remember that bright colours are more visible than dull colours under daylight conditions (e.g. fluorescent materials are suitable for daylight), and fluorescent colours are more effective than bright colours under low light (e.g. dawn and dusk) and reflective materials are also suggested.


Also, retroreflective materials provide high-visibility conditions and are preferred over bright colours. Fluorescent materials are ineffective at night and less visible than white fabrics.


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