As the November 2008 deadline for compliance with the Federal Highway Mandate approaches, it is critical that individuals in occupational industries understand how they will be impacted by the changes. Therefore, it is important to be informed about the new regulation and the options available in order to make the best choices for worker safety, compliance, and comfort.
According to the new federal regulation published on November 24th, 2006, 23 CFR Part 634: Worker Visibility, published by the Federal Highway Administration, all workers within the right-of-way of a Federal-aid Highway who are exposed either to traffic or to construction equipment within the work area shall wear high-visibility safety apparel that meets the Performance Class 2 or 3 requirements of the American National Standard for High Visibility Apparel (ANSI/ISEA 107-2004).
“Importantly, , a government regulatory agency, the Federal Highway Administration, is emphasizing that the need to be seen is a ‘critical issue for worker safety’. This is a significant milestone for the safety of roadway workers,” said Gary Pearson, marketing manager for 3M’s Visibility and Insulation Solutions business. In preparation for the November 2008 compliance deadline, many occupational industry specifiers will need information about the high-visibility safety solutions they seek to satisfy both the regulations and the specific needs of their workers.
Evaluating Worker Needs
When selecting high visibility apparel, it is critical to consider specific worker needs. The key is to select apparel that offers optimum visibility with comfort in day-time, low-light, and nighttime conditions in a variety of work environments. Employers can assess their worker needs by referring to Appendix B of ANSI/ISEA 107-2004 for performance class selection guidelines per work zone conditions. Visit www.safetyequipment.org/hivisstd.htm.
High Visibility Apparel Options
A 2002 survey commissioned by the International Safety Equipment Association stated that lack of style and comfort was a key reason why some workers did not wear safety vests when needed. While traditional vests still have a place, they are now being supplemented or replaced with a surprising range of new choices. In warm weather situations, specifiers should choose ultra-lightweight knit fabrics or materials that accelerate the evaporation of body moisture. These are available from several garment manufacturers. For cold weather, specifiers need to provide workers with garments made with warm, light-weight, and comfortable insulation, such as Thinsulate™ Insulation from 3M. These insulated high visibility garments are also available from several garment manufacturers.
“Innovative materials are being fashioned into an expanded variety of worker garments including short- or long-sleeved shirts, shorts, gloves, headgear, jackets and parkas that provide enhanced visibility in low light conditions as well as maximize comfort, even after frequent launderings. “These options make it easier than ever to move beyond the vest and select the right garments for the job,” said Pearson.
In addition to improved comfort and durability provided by new fabrics and reflective applications, retroreflective material such as 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material is now being converted into webbing, trim and graphic transfers, which provide more options than ever for incorporating distinctive badges, logos, and design features into workwear. Where warmth is a significant consideration, the portfolio of Thinsulate™ Insulation products offers lightweight, durable and non-bulky insulation solutions for virtually any type of cold weather garment expected to perform in a tough environment.
Benefits of Compliance
While workers are the immediate and obvious beneficiaries of more stringent guidelines and the expanded range of garment options, public agencies and contractors that rely on highway construction and maintenance crews, and emergency responders and law enforcement personnel will also benefit. According to a 2002 report by the American Economics Group (AEG), if the public and private sector allocated annual expenditures of at least $3 billion annually for a range of 32 safety improvements, including outfitting all roadway workers with high-visibility safety apparel, it could avoid 66 roadside fatalities and almost 5,000 roadside accidents per year. Based on the implementation of these 32 safety improvements, the AEG further estimated that for every dollar spent on high-visibility safety apparel, five dollars in accident costs may be avoided.
Because of the benefits to both workers and their employers, standards for high-visibility apparel are expected to find their way into additional regulations. Already, more than 40 state transportation departments have specified use of high-safety apparel compliant with ANSI 107.
Highway Worker Accident/Fatalities Background
There are approximately 700,000 roadway workers in the U.S. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2005 there were a total of 1,074 fatalities as a result of motor vehicle traffic accidents in construction and maintenance zones. In a recent “Report to Congress” prepared by the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA), the writers establish a link between some struck-by vehicle accidents and low visibility, and are recommending that roadway workers, emergency responders, law enforcement, and motorists outside their vehicles along a roadway wear high-visibility safety apparel.
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