Canadian Rental Service

What went Hong: All about the yellow vest

By James Hong   

Features Government and regulatory

There’s more to traffic control PPE than meets the eye.


Keeping your staff and customers safe when delivering and servicing roadside fleet requires a knowledge of personal protective equipment. And there are some twists particular to traffic control PPE, so here are some things you should know.

When planning any job, including traffic control projects, it is always necessary to do a risk assessment coupled with legislative jurisdictional checks prior to deciding which class of visibility apparel is required. All construction workers including traffic control persons are always required to wear personal protective equipment specific to their assigned task. They should always wear items with the CSA standard. A CSA symbol on the safety gear means it’s been tested against accepted North American standards.

There are three types of reflective material used to maximize visibility. Retro-reflective material bounces back light from the light source. This works extremely well with vehicle headlights and other job site work lights at night. Fluorescent material requires a natural source of sunlight to function; ultraviolet rays from the sun  have a reaction with the fluorescent colours which increases visibility. This interaction is most effective in poor lighting conditions. The third type of material known as combined-performance material is often but not always a fluorescent material that is also reflective. Geek fact: the CSA does not use the term “reflective” because, technically, most surfaces are already reflective. The CSA term is “throw back light.”

There are three classes of safety vests. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety quotes the CSA Standard requiring any high-visibility safety apparel to meet the following criteria for the stripes and bands:

There must be a waist-level horizontal stripe or band that goes completely around the body at the navel or belly button with a minimum width of 50 millimeters. There should also be two vertical stripes on the front passing over the shoulders and down to the waist. On the back, a symmetric “X” extending from the shoulders to the waist. On Class 3 apparel, stripes or bands encircling both arms and both legs are added. You’d be surprised at how many workers and even site managers are not aware of these standards.

There are standards for the colour background as well. Class 1 apparel requires a minimum of 0.14 square metres of background material. Class 2 and Class 3 apparel requires full coverage of the background material. Background material can be fluorescent yellow-green, fluorescent orange-red, fluorescent red, bright yellow-green or bright orange-red.

Additional to the safety vest are reflective arm and leg bands and strips. The bands provide increased and 360-degree visibility. They are important not only for the public to see workers but also for co-workers and even the worker wearing the PPE to better see their own actions in the case of severely limited visibility. The strips can be applied to any outer clothing, as well as gloves, boots and hard hats. They are an excellent way to stay visible.

Along with PPE protection, depending on the job site environmental hazards, it may be necessary to augment PPE with safety devices such as hearing protection, hard hat chin straps, safety glasses and/or respirators. Additional to safety devices, tools also play a role in safety. For traffic control people, a flashlight with a red signalling wand is required as well as communication tools.

For traffic control workers, the minimum self-supplied PPE requirement is CSA-approved safety footwear. Workers should be supplied with all PPE other than the self-supplied minimum. Workers should check it, make sure it fits and not do any job they do not feel safe doing.

Be well. Be safe. 


James Hong is an OH&S consultant, independent writer and journalist 


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