Visibly Safe

October 2004 The night sky is foggy as rain pours down onto the ramp. Several yards out a man stands barely visible despite his brightlycolored rain slicker and lighted wands. As the wind blows the rain, the man becomes even less visible to the...


October 2004

The night sky is foggy as rain pours down onto the ramp. Several yards out a man stands barely visible despite his brightlycolored rain slicker and lighted wands. As the wind blows the rain, the man becomes even less visible to the naked eye. The possibility for an accident to occur is much higher now, but what can be done to lessen the chances of an incident in this situation? While nothing is 100 percent certain, wearing high visibility or reflective clothing can lower the chances of accidents and injuries.

Seen in Day or Night
High visibility clothing comes in many different designs and colors ranging from the bright orange to electric yellow to neon green. Reflective tape is usually added to increase the visibility of the garment. While a vest is the standard, many companies make shirts, trousers, coveralls, hats, jackets, and gloves.

"Basically, in daytime, visibility is enhanced by fluorescent colors that are not found in nature and are high contrast so they stand out from the background. At night, retro-reflective materials should be worn because they reflect light back to the light source," says Rich McNeely, Vice President-Safety Products at AW Direct in Berlin, CT. "Retro-reflective materials work well for high visibility clothing because it returns the light from the headlights of an approaching vehicle back to the driver, allowing the worker to be seen at greater distances than a worker without retro-reflective materials. This increases the driver's ability to see roadside workers more easily, improving everyone's safety."

Recommending Safety
There are no federal regulations in the United States covering the design and performance specifications for high visibility clothing. However, in 1999, the Airport Council International-North America (ACI-NA), in response to manufacturer and consumer needs, adopted the first U.S. standards called the American National Standard for High Visibility Safety Apparel or ANSI-ISEA 107-1999. This standard addresses requirements for day and night conditions, colors, retro-reflection, placement of materials, physical properties of background materials, and test methods.

McNeely is a member of this committee and worked on these voluntary standards, which are based on required regulations in Europe. When the European Union was being formed, countries came together to standardize regulations and published high visibility regulations known as EN471 in 1995. The British Airport Authority requires that airport apron workers wear high visibility clothing at all times in areas where aircraft and vehicles maneuver.

The standard identifies three classes of high visibility clothing and ground support workers fall into the Conspicuity Class 2, which is used when the work environment requires greater visibility during inclement weather conditions or when employees are performing tasks that divert attention from approaching vehicular traffic, or moving equipment speeds exceed 25 mph, McNeely says.

In 2000, Section 520 of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century required the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct a study to determine the number of persons working at airports who are injured or killed as a result of being struck by a moving vehicle while on an airport tarmac, the seriousness of the injury, and whether or not reflective safety vests or other actions should be required to enhance the safety of such workers. While reviewing records of the FAA, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Bureau of Labor, it was found that since August 2000, 11 workers were fatally injured when struck by vehicles on airport aprons, however, only two occurred between 1995 and 2000.

Although no conclusive evidence could be found that high visibility clothing would have definitely prevented certain accidents, it was suggested that a ramp safety program that includes this type of clothing would enhance the occupational safety of airport apron workers.

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