When looking for a safety vest, you're going to notice that you've got some color options. After you've determined the vest type, the vest class, and of course, your size, you get to pick a color. But, unfortunately, there are wrong answers to the question, which color is right for me?
When working in an official capacity on a roadway, construction site, or any work overseen by OSHA, you are required to wear an ANSI-approved vest. There are only three ANSI-approved colors for safety vests, yellow-green, orange-red, and red.
But, you can buy and use a non-ANSI vest in work conditions that OSHA doesn't require an approved vest. Non-ANSI vests can come in any color, but commonly you'll see colors like blue and green. And not all yellow, orange, and red vests are ANSI approved. We'll get into all of that later.
ANSI - Yellow Safety Vests
The first of the three ANSI-approved safety colors is yellow-green, which is often referred to as "Safety Yellow" or just "Yellow."
Yellow safety vests are also commonly used in recreational activities, such as biking or hiking. When worn in these settings, they can help keep the wearer visible to others, preventing accidents or collisions. Additionally, safety yellow is popular in other industries, such as parking attendants, crossing guards, emergency services, and more.
Again, yellow is one of the most common color options for safety vests, and you can easily find a yellow vest in any class and type combination.
Orange Safety Vests
The second of the three ANSI-approved safety colors is orange-red, often called "Safety Orange" or just "Orange."
The road construction industry is a big fan of "Safety Orange." You see it on the road signs, the cones, the waterfilled barriers, traffic barrels, and even the machinery is often painted orange. Safety vests are no exception. You'll notice a lot of orange vests amongst highway and roadway crews.
Additionally, orange safety vests are commonly worn by surveyors and airport personnel. They are designed to provide maximum visibility and contrast with workers' surroundings, even in low light or foggy conditions.
Outside of work zones uses, orange safety vests are also commonly used by hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts. Wearing an orange vest can help prevent accidental shootings by making the wearer more visible to others in the area.
Red Safety Vests
The third and final ANSI-approved safety vest color is red, sometimes called "Safety Red."
Red safety vests are used to indicate workers and responders who are in potentially hazardous situations, such as firefighters or emergency responders.
Red safety vests are commonly worn by firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and other emergency responders. They are designed to provide maximum visibility while also indicating a worker's role and level of authority. The bright red color of the vest can be easily recognized, even in smoke or other hazardous conditions, which helps workers and visitors identify the person responsible for ensuring their safety.
In addition to their use in emergency response, red safety vests are also sometimes used in industries such as manufacturing or construction. The bright red color of the vest can be used to indicate workers who are working with or near potentially hazardous materials, where safety is of the utmost importance.
Green Safety Vests
You don't often see a lot of vests in "safety green," not to be confused with "safety yellow," which is a neon yellow that can sometimes be confused with a light green. Actual green vests are a darker shade of green, and they are not ANSI approved. These vests can be used in situations where an ANSI-approved vest is not required, but additional safety and visibility are encouraged.
Green safety vests are sometimes used by safety personnel, such as first aid providers, safety officers, and security guards.
Green safety vests are popular in situations where different groups of people need to be easily and quickly identified. In a large-scale emergency response situation, specific response teams will wear a green vest, while others wear blue, and so forth
In addition to their use in the workplace, green safety vests are also commonly used in outdoor activities, such as hiking. Wearing a green vest can indicate that a person is an outdoors guide, park ranger, or other types of outdoor safety personnel.
Blue Safety Vests
Similar to green safety vests, you aren't going to see these used in an official capacity. Blue safety vests are not approved by ANSI but can be used in a situation where an approved vest is not required.
Blue safety vests are sometimes worn by beach lifeguards and pool attendants and generally indicate an official position near water. In this capacity, the vest is not serving to create better visibility of the wearer to keep the wearer safe, but rather better visibility to allow individuals who need help to identify the vest wearer as a person of authority. The bright blue color of the vest can be easily recognized, even from a distance, which helps workers and visitors identify the person responsible for ensuring their safety.
In addition to their use in water-related industries, blue safety vests are also sometimes used in auxiliary positions in industries such as aerospace or aviation. The bright blue color of the vest can be used to indicate workers who are working with or near non-moving aircraft.
Again, similar to green vests, blue vests are used as an identification option when many different color vests are being used to differentiate response teams. Such as in a mass emergency response situation.
What makes a vest ANSI-approved?
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has established specific requirements for safety vests to ensure they provide the necessary level of protection and visibility. These requirements are outlined in the ANSI/ISEA 107 standard , which sets guidelines for high-visibility safety apparel.
As previously mentioned, the vest material needs to be a bright, fluorescent color. Specifically yellow-green (safety yellow), orange-red (safety orange), or red. The color must be visible in daylight and low-light conditions.
But that's not all; the material that the vest is made out of needs to meet some photometric minimums. Commonly vests are made of polyester, mesh, modacrylic, or similar materials. And the design of the vest need to meet minimum specification on how much high visibility material is used and how many reflective strips are used.
It's important to note that the ANSI requirements for safety vests vary depending on the level of risk in the work environment. For example, Class 1 vests are designed for low-risk environments, while Class 3 vests are designed for high-risk environments. Employers should evaluate the level of risk in their work environment and provide appropriate safety vests to their employees.
What are the OSHA requirements?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has specific requirements for safety vests under their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards. In that standard, OSHA requires workers to wear the ANSI-approved vest we detailed earlier.
OSHA requires that employers assess their workplace hazards to determine if workers need to wear high-visibility safety vests and, if so, to provide the appropriate vest for the job. Road workers on active highways require class III safety vests, while workers on local streets may only require class II safety vests.
OSHA requires employers to assess what PPE is needed and to provide the appropriate PPE, including safety vests, to their workers at no cost to the employee. OSHA also requires that employees wear the PPE provided by their employer and maintain it in a clean and functional condition.
Additionally, OSHA requires that employers train their workers on the proper use, care, and maintenance of their PPE, including safety vests.
How Can PowerPak Help?
Here at PowerPak, our specialty is on ANSI-approved vests, specifically safety yellow and safety orange. We have a wide selection of safety vests in those two colors in both class II and class III.
Best yet, we offer in-house imprinting on our vest, with very quick turnaround times. Visit our website to order your vest, or reach out to learn more about our imprinting service.
If you are in need of safety vest as soon as possible, order from PowerPak. We keep a full inventory in stock, and most orders ship out, same day. Select areas will receive their order that day. Unbelievable, right? Try it for yourself, order now.