“Safety yellow” is a term referring to the fluorescent yellow-green color used for high visibility safety apparel (HVSA). This color is sometimes called safety green, but that is not the correct term. “Safety green” actually refers to a different color that isn’t used for HVSA. Still, some retailers use the terms safety yellow and safety green interchangeably.
Proper high visibility safety apparel must meet certain standards, depending on the specific type of HVSA desired. One of the most important elements is that the apparel contrasts wearers with their environment to make wearers highly visible.
The Basics of HVSA
When discussing HVSA in the United States, we are referring specifically to HVSA that meets the regulations set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA).
These standards were developed to make sure HVSA serves its purpose: to better contrast wearers with their environment to be more visible, especially when wearers can be harder to see, such as at night. Depending on the situation, wearing appropriate HVSA may be a legal mandate based on state laws and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules and regulations.
HVSA can be lifesaving. One in five construction workplace fatalities is the result of a person being struck by equipment or a vehicle. HVSA can make the difference between a person being spotted in time to avoid or being struck by a vehicle.
Why Use Fluorescent Yellow-Green?
One of the most common colors used for HVSA (which meets ANSI/ISEA standards) is fluorescent yellow-green, often referred to as safety yellow. Importantly, safety green refers to a different color associated with ANSI, but it does not meet the HVSA standard.
Yellow-green is highly visible and usually contrasts with the average worker’s job environment, the scene of an accident or a similar site. Unless a site has significant amounts of yellow equipment or the worker’s clothes are particularly dirty, it’s unlikely a worker wearing fluorescent yellow-green HVSA would be difficult to spot.
In addition, HVSA vests are generally made of reflective or retroreflective materials. This additional safety feature makes people easier to see in environments that are artificially lit, especially when a person is working in the dark, whether at night or in an environment such as a cave.
Accepted Alternative Colors
Two other alternative HVSA colors that meet ANSI/ISEA standards are available: fluorescent orange-red and fluorescent red. Generally, workers should be equipped with whichever color offers the greatest contrast between the workers and their environment. These alternative colors might be more appropriate in situations where yellow is more common in the environment, such as in a desert.
Color is only one element of proper HVSA. You also should consider the type and class of the garment. Type “O” (off-road) garments are for occupational workers not required to wear certain apparel by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) but who might benefit from apparel designed to increase visibility, such as when working near heavy machinery and moving vehicles.
Type “R” (roadway) garments are for those exposed to roadway traffic and who work near heavy machinery and moving vehicles. Finally, type “P” (fire, police and EMS personnel) garments are meant to give additional options to individuals who may need to access equipment on their person, such as emergency responders, while also staying visible.
There are three classes of HVSA, with higher-class apparel generally more visible and better for higher-risk environments. Type “O” apparel only comes in Class 1, but types “R” and “P” come in Class 2 and Class 3.
It also should be kept in mind that high visibility is only one element of safety when it comes to worker attire. For example, temperature also needs to be considered. The ideal apparel for hot weather isn’t the same as for cold weather, as we’ve discussed in the past.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are real risks for workers in hot weather. Meanwhile, cold weather can also be harmful and can impact dexterity and reduce a worker’s precision.
Alsco’s Health and Safety Services
Whatever HVSA a business chooses for its workers, it’s important that it meets ANSI standards created to help prevent accidents and tragedies.
Fluorescent yellow-green is a valid choice of HVSA color for many worksites. At the same time, it’s important to consider the specifics of a site.
If you’re looking for HVSA that is appropriate for the needs of your business, consider reading more about Alsco’s health and safety services. We can help teams equip themselves with flame resistant uniforms, high visibility clothing and PPE, gloves and isolation gowns. Contact us to learn more about how we can help.
What You Need to Know about High-Visibility Safety Apparel (HVSA). (October 2022). American National Standards Institute, Inc.
ANSI/ISEA 107-2020 Made Easier: A Quick Reference to the High-Visibility Safety Apparel Standard. (December 2020). 3M Company.