What Is ANSI and What Does It Mean for Safety Apparel?
Employees have the right to a safe and healthy work environment. Safety managers have an essential role to play in the workplace. It's your job to make sure appropriate safety standards and protocols are in place and are being followed, to perform safety audits, and to make corrections as needed. That means paying attention to established safety standards, such as those established by ANSI for safety apparel.
What Is ANSI?
The American National Standards Institute creates standards for various workplace aspects, from products and services to processes, systems, and personnel. The standards they develop are voluntary - ANSI is not involved in the government enforcement of safety standards. That said, OSHA has adopted some of the standards designed by ANSI. It's a good idea for you as a safety manager to be familiar with the ANSI standards that apply to your business and industry, including those governing safety apparel.
Types and Classes of Safety Apparel
Safety apparel is divided into different types and classes. The types of safety apparel denote what type of occupations they are appropriate for. There are three types of safety apparel, including Type O, Type R, and Type P. The class refers to the minimum design requirements that contribute to the visibility of the garment. There are four performance classes: 1, 2, 3, and E.
Type O safety apparel is intended for off-road use. This type of apparel is meant to be used by people at risk of being struck by vehicles, equipment, and machinery but won't be around roadway traffic. That can mean shopping center employees retrieving shopping carts, warehouse employees who work around forklifts, or people working in mines, oil refineries, or gas extraction facilities.
Type R safety apparel is designated for roadway use. This is for those exposed to roadway traffic and traffic from vehicles or construction equipment in temporary traffic control zones. Road construction workers, crossing guards, toll booth operators, and airport ground crew should be using this type of safety apparel.
Type P safety apparel is to be used by public safety personnel. It's intended to make it easier to see emergency responders and law enforcement when operating in the conditions covered in the aforementioned types of safety apparel. Police, firefighters, EMS personnel, and accident site investigators are some of the people you can expect to see wearing this type of safety apparel.
Class 1 safety apparel has the minimum requirements in terms of including visibility elements. Those in the Type O category should only utilize this type of safety apparel.
Class 2 safety apparel steps things up from Class 1. The greater inclusion of visibility elements outlines the human form better, making it easier to see those wearing Class 2 safety garments. This is the minimum standard for those in Type R and P conditions.
Class 3 safety apparel increases the visibility element requirements even further. It's appropriate for use in Type R and P conditions, similarly to Class 2 garments. The minimum level requirements for background material are the primary distinguishing component between Class 2 and 3.
Class E safety apparel consists of various high-visibility supplemental items that don't necessarily fit the requirements of the other classes.
To be ANSI compliant, safety apparel needs to have the right background colors. Colors that qualify include fluorescent yellow-green, fluorescent red, and fluorescent orange-red. Which color is best will depend on which one offers the greatest contrast against the wearer's environment. Beyond just the background color, it's also important to note that there are specific dimension requirements for both background and retroreflective elements of safety apparel.
ANSI-compliant safety apparel is required to have specific markings. Required markings include manufacturer identification, product style, size, specific ANSI standard, type, class, fire resistance of the garment, and intended to be a single-use item.
Safety apparel compliant with ANSI standards can be a real asset for safety managers, employees, and businesses alike. Their capacity to improve worker visibility can go a long way towards reducing the number of workplace accidents. Do everyone a favor and make sure that the safety apparel you provide for your employees meets ANSI standards and is appropriate for the type of work being done.