How to Choose the Right High-Vis Safety Vests?

Sonco Perimeter Security

Sonco Perimeter Security, April 10, 2023

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How to Choose the Right High-Vis Safety Vests?

Choose the Best Life-Saving Device for Your Team

The construction industry is known to be one of the most dangerous industries to work in with high workplace deaths reported. According to the team at Liles White, 174,100 total cases of nonfatal injuries or illnesses were reported in the construction industry, and this number is expected increase.

Year after year, construction companies emphasize safety training and jobsite protocols to reduce these numbers — but training alone can’t overcome the need for high-visibility apparel.  

Tools like high-vis safety vests should anchor a successful safety plan, but do you know which is best for your application? Every day, SONCO professionals help construction and highway management companies outfit their crews for a safe workday. Before you invest in reflective safety vests with pockets for your team, check out our answers to these frequently asked apparel questions. 


FAQs About Reflective Safety Vest Styles 

Who Decides Which Safety Vest Is Best for My Application? 

While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) calls for the use of reflective garments, they do not provide specific garment guidelines. Instead, high-vis apparel is considered part of the federal worker-safety “general duty clause” requiring employers to establish a workplace “free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”   

When it’s time to choose the best reflective safety vest for your construction crew, refer to the American National Standards Institute for detailed performance criteria (ANSI/ISEA 107-2020). This guideline provides criteria for high-visibility safety wear and its design requirements, testing, performance requirements and product labeling. 


What Class of High-Vis Safety Vests do I need? 

Safety vest choices are fairly clear-cut, but only if you’re familiar with the classifications. 

ANSI standards break vests and other High-Visibility Safety Apparel (HVSA) into a type-and-class system that includes three classes and three types. ANSI’s safety vest classes were created with varying size requirements for background fabric and reflective striping. 



These reflective vests are designed for lower-risk employees working on a jobsite where the background is not visually complex. Class-1 vests are worn by those who (1) encounter traffic traveling 25 mph or less (no highway use) and (2) have ample separation from traffic. Wearers may include warehouse workers, parking lot booth attendants, delivery drivers, mineworkers, refinery workers and shopping cart retrieval teams. 

Class-1 vests are safety orange or yellow with a minimum of 217” of background fabric and 155 square inches of reflective material (minimum 1-inch width). Though sleeves are not required, an individual’s torso must be covered. 



These high-vis safety vests are indicated for jobsites where traffic is moving 25 to 50 mph. Because these vests are more noticeable than class-1 styles, class-2 vests can also be worn at night or during inclement weather when views may be temporarily obstructed. Wearers may include airport baggage handlers and tarmac workers, public transit workers, toll operators, surveyors, railroad workers, construction workers, road workers (under 50 mph) and school crossing guards.  

Each class-2 high-vis safety vest with pockets must be safety orange or yellow and is typically sleeveless. Class-2 vests must have a minimum 775 square inches of background material for large vests and 540 square inches for small vests. This HVSA vest class must also have a minimum of 201 square inches of reflective material (minimum 1.375-inch width), with reflective material included between the shoulders and elbows. 



Designed for the most hazardous environments when visibility is imperative, class-3 vests are indicated for jobs near or on roadways (>50 mph) where workers may also encounter high task loads and a wide range of weather conditions. Wearers may include construction workers, tow truck operators, emergency responders, incident site investigators, roadside assistant teams and utility crews. 

Class-3 vests are the largest of the high-vis safety vests, resembling a short-sleeved t-shirt. These vests require a full 1,240 square inches of safety orange or yellow background fabric with at least 310 square inches (minimum 2-inch width) of reflective striping. Split trim vest designs must have a minimum 1-inch striping width. 


What Are the Main HVSA Vest Types? 

Each ANSI high-vis safety vest type is designed for different work environments and task loads. 



Yellow with orange safety vest intended for non-roadway occupational use. Type O includes class 1 safety vests for use in off-road situations like sporting events, marathons, concert and speaking events, delivery routes and parking lots.  



Yellow with orange safety vest intended for roadway occupational use. Type R includes class 2 and 3 vests. These vests may be worn by construction or utility workers, surveyors, crossing guards, parking lot attendants, airport tarmac workers, flaggers, nighttime construction teams and DOT workers. 



Yellow with orange high-vis safety vests intended for first responders and law enforcement. Type P includes class 2 and class 3 vests. Wearers may include police personnel, ambulance and EMS crews, fire personnel and sheriffs. 


What Type of High-Vis Safety Vests Materials Are Approved? 

All HVSA vests are required by ANSI to have a minimum of two material types: background fabric and retroreflective or combined performance material.  

  • Made from breathable mesh or similar fabric, the background material is typically fluorescent yellow or orange. The fabric is easy to spot during daytime.
  • Retroreflective material is the vest’s safety striping, which is highly visible at night when hit with car headlights or other light sources. Often found in silver, white or gray colors, this material reflects oncoming light back to the original light source.
  • ANSI-approved high-vis safety vests may also have combined-performance material instead of retroreflective tape. Combined-performance tape or striping has retro-reflective qualities and is fluorescent like the background fabric. This material offers both daytime and nighttime visibility. 
    What Other Vest Features Should I Know About? 

Some class I, II and III safety vests also come with extra features, which may be required by some jobsite managers. Popular options include, but are not limited to: