Originally published Sept. 13, 2016
Safety vests are designed to make workers visible to traffic and machine operators under any conditions. Vests must meet ANSI’s performance class 2 or 3 requirements. You must wear it if you are:
- Part of a highway construction or maintenance crew (this includes flaggers);
- An inspector;
- Engineering personnel;
- Part of a survey crew or utility crew; or
- A responder.
If maintained properly, a vest that is worn on a daily basis has a service life expectancy of approximately six months. A vest not worn daily could be functional up to three years. Do not neglect washing your vest. Dirt can diminish the intensity of the florescent color. You want the color to be as visible as possible.
One manufacturer suggests machine laundering with like colors, in cold water, on the delicate cycle using a mild detergent. Do not use bleach or fabric softener. If possible, wash the garment inside out. Following these instructions will help protect the reflective tape.
Line drying your vest will also extend the life of the reflective tape. If you choose to machine dry, remove the vest from the dyer immediately. Do not let it sit with other hot clothes next to the dryer’s drum. This could also damage the reflective tape.
Your safety vest should be replaced when it becomes faded, torn, dirty, soiled, worn or defaced, or if it is not visible at 1,000 feet day or night. Factors that may cause your vest to wear out more quickly, depending on the amount of use, include:
- Higher elevations due to increased ultra-violet rays;
- Hot climates;
- The types of work you are doing (some jobs are more dirty or strenuous and could be more likely to lead to soiling or tears); and
- Care and maintenance of your vest.
When it’s time to replace your safety vest, notify your safety compliance officer or supervisor and request a replacement.
The proper care and maintenance of your vest will ensure that you are seen and help you stay safe while on the job. Launder your vest according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and replace it as soon as it is no longer appropriately visible. Your life may depend on it.