ISEA Welcomes New Federal Regs That Increase Road Worker Safety

The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) welcomes the new Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) regulations that will increase road worker safety by requiring workers to wear high-visibility apparel whenever they are exposed to moving traffic, work vehicles or construction equipment.

Under rules published in December 2009, the FHWA adopted the 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), the standard for all public roads nationwide. The revised MUTCD requires that workers, including emergency responders, in a right-of-way or workzone must wear high-visibility apparel that meets Performance Class 2 or 3 requirements of ANSI/ISEA 107-2004, the American National Standard for High Visibility Safety Apparel and Headwear.

Emergency responders, firefighters and law enforcement personnel have the option of wearing vests that meet the American National Standard for Public Safety Vests, ANSI/ISEA 207-2006. There is an exception for firefighters who may be directly exposed to fire, flame, heat or hazardous materials, and are wearing retro-reflective turnout gear that meets National Fire Protection Association or other applicable standards.

“This move by the highway administration represents a major safety enhancement for all workers along highways, highway workzones and all other public roads, and one that has been needed for a long time,” said ISEA President Dan Shipp. “We know of too many instances where high-visibility apparel could have made the difference between workers returning home after a shift or being taken to hospitals. Worker visibility in any light is crucial to saving lives and preventing injuries.”

Both standards for high-visibility apparel were developed by the ISEA High-Visibility Products Group in response to the need for greater protection for anyone working near moving vehicles, and were approved as American National Standards. They include performance and design requirements for background and retro-reflective material that provide enhanced visibility day and night.

The new rule extends protection to all workers on all roadways. Previously, the MUTCD had required high-visibility apparel only for flaggers and adult crossing guards, and recommended its use for other workers. An interim regulation published by FHWA had mandated the use of garments complying with the ANSI/ISEA standard, but only for workers on federal-aid highways.

Separate sections of the MUTCD require the use of ANSI/ISEA 107-compliant apparel for flaggers and adult school crossing guards. The flagger and crossing guard sections also permit the use of ANSI/ISEA 207-compliant public-safety vests for law enforcement personnel.

The revised MUTCD took effect Jan. 15, 2010, and all states will have to adopt it as their state standards within two years. Workers on non-federal-aid highways will have to be in compliance with the high-visibility apparel requirements by Dec. 31, 2011. Since the safety apparel requirement for workers in federal-aid highway work zones has been in effect since November 2008, the MUTCD provided no implementation delay. Use of ANSI/ISEA-compliant high-visibility safety apparel on federal-aid highways is currently required by the new MUTCD.

Finally, high-visibility safety apparel is not the only worker protection aspect in the MUTCD. In the document, the FHWA states a key element to worker safety is “worker safety planning,” and recommends a trained person designated by the employer should conduct a worksite hazard assessment that meets U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration construction regulations to determine whether engineering, administrative, or personal protection measures should be implemented.


Dan Glucksman is director of public affairs for the International Safety Equipment Association, where he directs the legislative and regulatory program for the association and its product groups. His “Washington Watch” column is a regular feature of Protection Update. Reach him at [email protected] or 703-525-1695.

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