OSHA Mandates New High-Visibility Safety Requirements

new osha regulations

High-Visibility Clothing (Hi-Vis) in the field of occupational safety is paramount. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) took a decisive step in its new standards. OSHA Hi Vis gear is now standard for a whole new class of employees. Workers and employers will benefit from the new standard.

California’s OSHA new standard ensures the safety of nighttime workers. Agricultural workers will benefit the most from the new standards. The CDC ranks agricultural workers as one of the most hazardous industries.1 Most incidents involve machinery and transportation. Farm workers in California now have a right to safe transport.2 Beyond Hi-Vis, there are many other ways to increase worker safety.

High-Visibility Clothing, also called Hi-Viz, is a type of special type of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that has higher reflective properties for maximum visibility. The idea is that workers that put on the clothing can be clearly seen from a distance.

It is common to see workers at airports and other high-risk environments to put on this type of clothing because it helps people to see you sooner and faster even under low light conditions. For example, airport workers put on yellow vests regardless on conditions.

California’s OSHA Protects Agricultural Workers

California is leading the pack with the recent adoption of workplace safety standards, especially in the agricultural industry. By this adoption of OSHA standards for nighttime workers protection, California will be going the extra mile to protect agricultural workers who work at night.

According to the statement by the Chief of California OSHA, Doug Parker, the new safety standards are a godsent. The new rules protect the state’s bustling agricultural workers. Before the introduction of the new OSHA safety standards, workers exposed to hazards experienced more injuries. Now, with the introduction of the first lighting standard in California, it is a lot easier to tackle those hazards head-on.

New OSHA Standard as of July 1, 2020

“By the postulations of these standards as enforced by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), and effective from July 1 2020, agricultural employees can now enjoy improved visibility when working between sunset and sunrise.”

The new agricultural safety standards also empowered supervisors to conduct safety meetings at the start of every shift. It is during this time that the supervisors will let the (agricultural) workers know of high traffic areas, as well as additional details of their surroundings so they will be better informed and strategize for their safety.

The new lighting safety standards allow workers freedom to make their own judgement. However, their judgement cannot conflict with OSHA standards. OSHA values the judgement of workers and allows for a range of decisions that fall within its standards. For example, a worker may feel more comfortable wearing a hi vis t-shirt. Under OSHA guidance, the worker can choose a t-shirt over a bomber jacket.

California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) approved new standards. The Office of Administrative Law enforces these standards. You can read up more information about the Outdoor Agricultural Operations During Hours of Darkness (Title 8, Section 3449).3 And read about the Operation of Agricultural Equipment (Title 8, Section 3441).4

Who wear high-visibility clothing?

Today, High-Visibility Clothing isn’t all that restricted to certain industries or to select classes of workers. Instead, you stand a higher chance of wearing one if you work in places or work zones where hazards are prone. Because of the new mandate, OSHA hi-vis is now standard for a new class of workers.

Ideally, workers in industrial and high risk settings must wear Hi Vis PPE. For example, a worker handling food would wear the proper food handling gloves. Here are the major industries where High-Visibility Clothing is a must:

  • Construction sites
  • Emergency and first responders
  • Road workers
  • Railways
  • Crossing guards
  • Firemen
  • Garbage and refuse workers
  • Toll booth operators
  • Shopping cart retrievers
  • Airports
  • Tow truck drivers
  • Warehouse employees policemen
  • Utility workers
  • Heavy equipment operators and
  • Shipyard dock workers

Besides, there are many other industries that OSHA has yet to require hi vis. However, because the standards are situational, the above list is not comprehensive. For example, if a worker diverts attention from traffic, then they must wear Class 2 Garments regardless of their profession. If conditions turn rainy, then that same worker must wear Class 3 garments.

Global Standards for High-Visibility Clothing

ANSI/ISEA – ANSI published this standard for High-Visibility Clothing under the 107 Standard. The publication was done in 1999. The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA), the developer of the standard, later made important revisions in the years 2004, 2010 and 2015.

Part of the revisions was the introduction of the 207 Standard that allowed shorter designs for equipment belt access. It also includes badge holders, convenient removal of the garment via the 5-point breakaway design and panels detailing the wearer as an emergency responder.

AS/NZS 4602 – This standard is exclusive to workers in Australia.

RIS-3279-TOM – By the specifications of the standard published by the Rail Safety and Standards Board, all railways in the United Kingdom must use the fluorescent-orange (Standard RIS-3279-TOM) to provide High-Visibility garments to railway workers.

Which OSHA Hi Vis Class Is Right For You?

Safety standards depend on the type of job and conditions. As mentioned above, weather can change the requirement. For example, rainy conditions require a higher degree of visibility than daytime sun. OSHA hi vis standards determine what is an acceptable degree of risk for workers.

  • Class 1 – Worn when not exposed to high risk conditions. In many cases, an orange t-shirt is more than sufficient.
  • Class 2 – Worn during inclement weather conditions and industrial settings. Many industrial workers are covered in Class 2 garments. Workers that divert attention from oncoming traffic are required to wear class 2 garments.
    Inclement weather may necessitate a class 3 garment.
  • Class 3 – Class 3 protects workers who work within imminent danger (e.g. oncoming traffic). Although the specific garment will depend on the weather, all class 3 apparel provide visibility of up to 1280 feet (390 meters).
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