Safety Vests - FAQ's

  1. What is the difference between Class 2 and Class 3 vests?
  2. There are two main differences when differentiating Classes of vests:

    1. Technical
      • ANSI Class 2 Safety Vests: These safety vests are required for workers near traffic between 25-50 mph, heavy machinery, inclement weather and low visibility conditions. Class 2 vests must have a minimum of 201 square inches of reflective tape.
      • ANSI Class 3 Safety Vests: Class 3 vests are required for workers near traffic exceeding 50 mph and very dark or “no visibility” conditions. These traffic safety vests have longer sleeves than class 2 vests, in order to meet the requirements for hi-viz and reflective material. These vests must have a minimum of 310 square inches of reflective tape that is 12.92 linear feet and 2-inches wide.

    2. Looks
      • Class 2 vests look like a ‘tank top’, with no sleeves.
      • Class 3 vests look like a ‘t-shirt’, with sleeves.

  3. What is the difference between Modacrylic and Fire Retardant (FR) vests?
    1. Modacrylic
      • An industry term used for vests known as “Flame Resistant”. When a customer asks for a Modacrylic vest, what they are looking for is a Flame Resistant vest. Modacrylic vests are only one way to achieve Flame Resistance – Nomex® and Indura® are two brands that compete with Modacrylic vests.
      • Resistant in this context is defined as a material that is inherently resistant to igniting/burning and does not melt or drip when exposed directly to extreme heat or fire.

    2. Fire Retardant (FR)
      • Fire Retardant is defined as a material that has been chemically treated to self-extinguish when the ignition source is removed. Polyester is most commonly used material used in high visibility safety apparel. When exposed to fire or heat, polyester melts and drips as a molten polymer. Molten polyester could cause additional injury to a worker wearing a polyester chemically treated vest exposed to arc flash.
      • The main consequence of these differences is that “Retardant” or “Self Extinguishing” vests are not compliant with any of the flame resistant standards referenced by the ANSI/ISEA 107 Standard and are therefore not permitted.

  4. What are Breakaway vests?
  5. A breakaway safety vest is a type of high visibility vest that’s designed to prevent a worker from getting entangled in moving equipment or machinery. When a strong force pulls on a breakaway vest, the vest will automatically detach its fasteners, allowing the worker to get out of the vest more easily. The two key mechanical components of a breakaway safety vest are:

    1. Five-Point Breakaway Construction: Breakaway safety vests are designed with five fastening points—on top of the shoulders, at the front, and on the side seams. This key design feature is what allows the vest to detach if it becomes caught on heavy machinery or vehicle parts.
    2. Hook and Loop Fasteners: Breakaway safety vests almost always use hook and loop fasteners. That’s because these fasteners have a firm hold that keeps the vest in place on the job while remaining easy to pull apart with a little effort. In an emergency caught-in situation, the hook and loops will detach and allow the vest to simply fall off the worker’s body.

    Combined, these features create a clever mechanism that makes sure that the vest is all that gets pulled into the entanglement hazard rather than the worker.

  6. What do the colors mean for vests? Orange vs Yellow.
  7. There is no specific standard that calls for orange vs. yellow in certain applications.

    Colors can help drivers and equipment operators recognize workers. While fluorescent yellow is the brightest color on the chromaticity scale and the most widely used, orange hi-vis PPE has strong recognition as a hazard identifier - orange means “caution” or “watch out.”

  8. What does “Type” mean when describing vests, and what are the different types available?
  9. Type describes the style of Garment it is – when looking for vests, after Type is confirmed, Class is then confirmed. In our industry, Type R is so common that it is automatically assumed that when a Class 2 or 3 vest is requested, it is Type R.

    • Type O: Type O high visibility apparel is Class 1 gear, which provides the minimum amount of reflective materials required to visually differentiate the wearer from non-complex backgrounds. It is used in Offroad applications.
    • Type R: Provides daytime and nighttime visual conspicuity enhancement for workers in occupational environments which include exposure to traffic. Used in road way applications.
    • Type P: Provides daytime and nighttime visual conspicuity enhancement for emergency and incident responders and law enforcement personnel in occupational environments which include exposure to traffic. Used in public safety applications, like law enforcement.
    Garment Type Performance Class Background Material [Square Inches (in2)] Retroreflective or Combined-Performance Materials (in2) Minimum Width Retroreflective Material [inches (in)]
    Type O Class 1 217 155 1
    Type R Class 2* 775 201 1.38
    Class 3** 1,240 310 2
    *For the smallest size offered in Type R, Performance Class 2, a minimum of 540 in2 of background material may be used to accommodate small-sized workers. **For the smallest size offered in Type R, Performance Class 3, a minimum of 1,000 in2 of background material may be used to accomodate small-sized workers.
    Type P Class 2 450 201 2
    Class 3 775 310 2
    Supplemental Items Class E 465 109 2

  10. What is Class E rated?
  11. High visibility garments that do not qualify as meeting the requirements of the standard when worn alone, but when a Class E item is worn with a Class 2 or Class 3 garment, the overall classification of the ensemble is Class 3.

  12. Non-Ansi vs Ansi rated shirts?
    1. ANSI shirts have the reflective tape required to meet an ANSI rated Class rating.
    2. Non- Ansi shirts are just hi-viz colored shirts, without reflective.