Standard Offers Increased Visibility to Workers

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The International Safety Equipment Association

Summary Statement

A DOT administrator explains why he changed to ANSI/ISEA-compliant vests to protect workers in roadway workzones.
Jan/Feb 2001

Transportation department employees face the hazards of working in a roadway environment, some of which can be fatal. The threat of being hit by a car is a constant danger. This risk increases at dawn, duck or in inclement weather - when the visibility of these workers is often compromised.

Fred Rasmussen, safety administrator of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) placed a high importance on obtaining high-visibility garments for his employees. Thanks to his efforts, Louisiana became the first state DOT in the nation to purchase safety vests that comply with the ANSI/ISEA 107-1999 American National Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel.

According to Rasmussen, a 3M visibility demonstration allowed him to compare his department's current vests with the ANSI/ISEA-compliant vests under both low light and nighttime conditions. For Rasmussen, the importance of 360-degree visibility was evident. "Our old vests had an eight inch piece of elastic on each side, so when the worker turned sideways he was no longer visible," explained Rasmussen. "The ANSI-compliant vest assures the worker is visible from all angles."

The process of adopting the ANSI/ISEA standard took time, said Rasmussen, noting that he "worked with a number of different parties to obtain the necessary approvals and develop new safety vest specifications. My number one priority was to improve employee visibility and safety. With that comes meeting the national ANSI standards. Beyond this, there are several other factors that come into play."

Rasmussen considered comfort and sought out garments that were sized to fit each employee, as proper fit is essential to reducing machinery hazards. In addition, those who work in the hot Louisiana sun especially value breathability and weight of the fabric. Six years ago, Louisiana became the first state to adopt lime-green safety vests, so vest color was also key.

"In a work-zone setting employees in orange vests blend right in with the cones and equipment," Rasmussen said. "A lime-green vest sets the worker apart from his surroundings." He added that he "wanted the best reflectivity our money could buy."

According to Rasmussen, the ANSI/ISEA-compliant vests cost the department between $8 and $9 more per vest than the garments the DOT was previously using. However, he believes that this extra cost is justified because of the importance of protecting workers.

Rasmussen's employees are now outfitted in ANSI/ISEA-compliant apparel. But his work is far from done. While Louisiana was the first state DOT to adopt the ANSI-standard, Rasmussen expects others to follow in his footsteps. In fact, Louisiana DOTD has already shared its specifications with other states for both lime-green color and reflectivity.

Rasmussen's next project is to write specifications for and purchase rainwear that also meets the ANSI/ISEA standard. Stay tuned.