FHWA mandates new look for traffic vests

Bright-colored vests without retroreflective stripes aren’t enough for roadway workers anymore.

On Dec. 22, 2006, the Federal Highway Administration will require zone flaggers and traffic controllers to wear garments with at least one vertical stripe over each shoulder, according to the Federal 2003 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

The number of stripes required on clothing depends on a worker’s class, or exposure, to high-speed traffic. Class 1 calls for the two-stripe minimum. Class 2 calls for an additional stripe around the torso, while Class 3, for workers with the highest exposure, requires one retroreflective stripe over each shoulder and two around the torso.

Peter Kuchinsky II, owner of CBA Construction Check, said employers or their safety administrators can determine a worker’s classification, but a third-party testing laboratory must test both the retroreflective material and background material of the clothing. Recommendations for employers are listed in the standard.

“Employers should consider providing all employees with updated traffic control and flagger safety training and obtain the required safety apparel as soon as possible,” Kuchinsky said.

“Because conditions can quickly change and workers may be exposed to varying … conditions throughout a shift, and to avoid confusion among workers when selecting safety apparel, providing only garments meeting Class 3 requirements should be highly considered.”

According to FHWA, 30 percent of construction worker deaths or injuries in 2003 occurred in traffic work zones.

To make enforcing the rule easier for administrators, the new standard also requires garment manufacturers to attach a label clearly stating the name of the manufacturer, class, size, and care instructions, Kuchinsky said.

You can reach Ebony Horton at [email protected].