Reflective Gear Class Ratings
High-visibility safety apparel (HVSA) is clothing worn by workers to improve how well they are "seen" by others. High-visibility clothing is worn to alert drivers and other vehicle or heavy machinery operators of a worker's presence, especially in low light and dark conditions (e.g. night work, poor weather, fog, etc.). High-visibility headwear can also be worn to increase the visibility of the wearer in situations where part or all of the wearer's body could be obscured (e.g., leaves/trees, traffic barriers, construction materials, etc.).
Wearing high-viz apparel allows others to see you quicker and act accordingly. The human eye responds faster to the high-contrast colours such as safety yellow, safety orange, and safety green, especially against muted or dark backgrounds and environments.
Requirements for high-visibility safety clothing for Canadian workers are found in the CSA Standard Z96-09 "High-Visibility Safety Apparel" and in the related guideline "CSA Z96.1, Guideline on selection, use, and care of high-visibility safety apparel", some of which discussed below.
There are 3 class types offered. It is important to check with your company/supervisor before purchasing any products, as to which class is required for your line of work. Depending on your job, you might need flame-resistant, water-resistant, insulated, or even lightweight birdseye knit garments--but all equipped with appropriate high-visibility stripes.
It is important to consider the following when choosing the garment that is right for your needs:
Size: Many insulated jackets, coats, and sweaters will be worn outside in cold climates. They are generally larger to account for layers you will wear underneath. If you plan on wearing bulky items underneath your high-viz garment, consider ordering a size up.
Fit: While it might be necessary to order a larger size to account for mulitple layers, it is still imperative that you order a garment that will fit properly. Loose or baggy garments can pose as a hazard. It is also important that the garment be lightweight, so you can move freely and comfortably.
Design: To comply with the CSA standards, all stripes/bands are to be in a distinctive, standardized pattern, complete with a symmetrical "X" on the back, two vertical stripes in front, and a waist-level horizontal stripe.
Colour: For Classes 2 and 3, the CSA allows three colours for background materials and contrasting-colour stripes to provide options that are intended to create visibility against most work environments. The background material should be should be fluorescent yellow-green, fluorescent orange-red or fluorescent red, or bright yellow-green, bright orange-red or bright red. The stripes must be in contrast to the background colour; usually fluorescent yellow-green, fluorescent orange-red or fluorescent red.
Different Class Ratings Specified by the CSA:
Class 1: provides the lowest recognized coverage and good visibility
Apparel must consist of a basic harness or stripes/bands over the shoulder(s) and encircling the waist.
Examples of jobs that might require Class 1 apparel: Workers directing vehicle operators to parking or service locations, workers retrieving shopping carts in parking areas, workers in warehouse operations, "Right-of-Way" or sidewalk maintenance workers, and workers in shipping or receiving operations, etc.
Class 2: provides moderate body coverage and superior visibility, and more coverage than Class 1
Apparel has full coverage of the upper torso (front, back, sides, and over the shoulders) and includes bib-style overalls. Stripes/bands are composed of retroreflective or combined performance materials.
Examples of jobs that might require Class 2 apparel: school crossing guard, roadway construction, utility, forestry or railway workers, surveyers, airport baggage handlers and ground crews, roadside vehicle maintenance workers, members of law enforcement, and high-volume parking and/or toll gate workers, etc.
Class 3: provides the greatest body coverage and visibility under poor light conditions and at great distance.
Apparel meets the same requirements as Class 2 with the addition of bands around both arms and legs. Background material can cover the whole garment or a portion of the garment.
Examples of jobs that might require Class 3 apparel: Roadway construction workers in wintry weather, road closures, complex lane shifts, etc., utility works, flaggers in night operations and/or high congestion areas, workers on foot and vehicle operators with multi-task loads that divert attention and increase risk, emergency responders in flagging operations, and work taking place in low light or at nighttime, etc.
*Information gathered from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.