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September 20, 2022
If you work in an industry that includes potentially hazardous working environments, you’ve probably heard of OSHA and ANSI. Both organizations are regulatory bodies that set specific guidelines for businesses, employers, and employees to follow to ensure safety in the workplace. What you might not know is that OSHA and ANSI, while similar, don’t possess the same resources and enforcement powers.
The recommendations and laws set by each of these entities are far-reaching and include regulations related to reflective clothing. Workers who are required to wear this form of personal protective equipment must always adhere to these rules. But what are OSHA and ANSI standards for reflective clothing? Read on to learn more about both organizations and their specific regulations.
Before we dive into the specific standards set forth by OSHA and ANSI, it’s important to understand these two entities. Both OSHA and ANSI work with industry leaders and other organizations to develop safety codes that protect millions of individuals who regularly work in hazardous environments. These standards are meant to be passed down from leadership to laborers and enforced at all times across all levels of any given company. However, there is one key difference between OSHA and ANSI that’s important to understand—ANSI recommends standards while OSHA enforces standards.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was established in 1971 by the US Congress. This governmental agency is a subsidiary of the Department of Labor, and its mission is “to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.”
The most important words within that statement are “setting and enforcing standards,” as OSHA has the resources and power to create regulatory laws. Businesses and individuals can face harsh punishments from the government if they fail to meet OSHA’s expectations. These laws cover everything from fall protection (the most commonly violated standard) to cave-in prevention, sanitation, and personal protective equipment standards and guidelines.
As you might have guessed, the American National Standards Institute lacks the enforcement power of OSHA. Instead, ANSI is a non-profit entity that recommends standards. ANSI does not develop these guidelines; rather, they are created through industry consensus and are completely voluntary. ANSI credits various other independent organizations, like the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), for many of ANSI’s standards. The non-profit simply promotes these guidelines to better protect individuals in dangerous lines of work.
While OSHA possesses governmental powers and ANSI merely recommends their standards, this isn’t to say the two entities don’t benefit from or collaborate with one another. In fact, some ANSI standards can be—and have been—adopted into OSHA’s regulations, thus becoming law. For instance, OSHA can simply reference another organization’s practices, such as those from ANSI, in their own regulations.
Additionally, OSHA can utilize the General Duty Clause in relation to a specific ANSI standard to punish employers who, through intent or malpractice, place their employees in exceptionally dangerous working conditions and environments. As you’ll see, many of OSHA’s and ANSI’s standards related to reflective clothing are similar since the two organizations focus heavily on industry research and consensus.
OSHA states that any individual who works on a street or next to a roadway (including highway rights-of-way), near or on a train track, or around heavy construction equipment must wear high-visibility personal protective gear—specifically, upper body reflective clothing. This includes vests, jackets, shirts, and hoodies.
Additionally, OSHA requires all reflective safety gear to feature a strong color that is distinct from the surrounding environment, such as orange, yellow, yellow-green, and vibrant red. Furthermore, during nighttime operating hours, reflective clothing must reflect light from all directions at 1,000 feet or greater. Failure to comply with these standards will result in legal discipline and fines.
ANSI/ISEA 107 are the standards that relate to reflective clothing. Of course, these standards aren’t legally binding unless you are a highway worker—the Federal Highway Visibility Rule legally enforces the requirements set by ANSI/ISEA 107. All ANSI/ISEA reflective clothing must contain three specific characteristics or features: colored fluorescent background material, retroreflective material, and combined-performance material, which is a combination of retroreflective material and fluorescent material.
For clothing to be ANSI/ISEA compliant, it must fall within one of the following designations—type R (roadway and temporary traffic control), type O (off-road), and type P (public safety). These designations are further broken down into performance classifications, from Class 1 to Class 3. For instance, ANSI type O garments are used in less-hazardous settings, so they only have to meet performance classification 1. This means they offer the minimum requirement for high-visibility fabrics and materials and are appropriate for non-complex working environments.
ANSI type R and type P reflective clothing are classified as Class 2 or 3. Class 2 provides more visibility of the human form compared to Class 1 and is meant for roadway rights-of-way workers in temporary traffic control (TTC) zones. Class 3 is the most visible performance classification of reflective clothing and must include sleeves. ANSI also has a performance classification called Class E, which includes garments and accessories that don’t meet visibility standards on their own. You can combine Class E items with Class 2 or Class 3 equipment to create a Class 3 outfit.
Performance Class 1 Minimum Requirements:
Common users: warehouse workers, truck drivers, parking lot attendants
Performance Class 2 Minimum Requirements:
Common users: surveyors, emergency responders, utility professionals, roadway construction workers
Performance Class 3 Minimum Requirements:
Common users: same as Performance Class 2, as well as flaggers
Understanding the OSHA and ANSI standards for reflective clothing can save lives and save businesses millions of dollars in legal punishments and fines. We at SafetyShirtz have custom reflective work shirts and related products to ensure you and your peers remain safe while working in hazardous environments.
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