If your job requires you to do any kind of work outside in areas where there might be motorized traffic or other hazards, wearing a safety vest is an absolute must. If your employer doesn't provide one for you, how do you know which kind is right for your situation? Here is a description of the different kinds of safety vests available on the market today and the appropriate contexts for their use.
Most safety vests are made from highly durable polyester mesh or water-resistant nylon. They are not designed to provide any kind of protection from the heat or cold: they are strictly meant to help the wearer be seen. All safety vests are reflective, of course, but that degree of reflection varies depending on which "class" the vest falls under. The higher the number of reflective tapes a vest displays, and the broader the width of those tapes, the higher the designated class it is intended for.
-- Class 1: Class 1 vests are appropriate in environments where the worker retains a large degree of control over his surroundings such as on a loading dock, in a parking lot, or in a warehouse. In these kinds of settings, motorized vehicles are at a minimum or are traveling at low rates of speed. Also, the worker himself is in a position to keep an eye on traffic and is not so absorbed in his tasks that he can't look out for his own safety.
A valet driver is a perfect example of someone who would wear a Class 1 vest: he is usually located at curb side near to slow-moving parking lot traffic, and he is occasionally walking in the parking area itself.
-- Class 2: Class 2 vests should be worn by those who need to work near traffic going around 25 miles per hour or less, such as in a residential neighborhood. Utility workers doing sewer work on a residential street are perfect candidates for Class 2 vests. They are at higher risk than Class 1 workers because of the potential speed and proximity of traffic and may be too absorbed in their duties and tasks to pay close attention to what is going on around them.
-- Class 3: These vests are most similar to Class 2, but have the maximum amount of reflective properties available in a vest. Workers who wear these vests generally work in areas where nearby traffic travels at speeds exceeding 50 miles an hour, such as on a freeway. Utility workers and highway construction or repair crews are the most likely wearers of Class 3 vests. They need to be easily visible in snowy and rainy conditions and need to be instantly recognizable when they come within headlight range.
Even athletes such as bikers and runners should wear some type of reflective vest if they choose to travel the busy streets: it's all about staying safe.
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