According to a interpretation letter issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 2009, all highway workers and other construction workers that come in contact with either road or construction traffic must wear high-visibility equipment, which includes safety vests. The decision was reinforced by figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics which showed that from 2003 to 2007, 639 road-construction work-zone fatalities occurred. Safety vests have become an important, legally required part of the personal protection equipment of a construction worker.
Construction workers are required to perform tasks close to moving equipment or vehicles in all weathers and conditions. The reflective high-visibility safety vests are often the first, and sometimes the only thing, a driver or machine operator can make out in dark or foggy working conditions. According to OSHA, the sooner a worker is seen by a driver or equipment operator, the more time the operator has to avoid the worker and prevent an accident. The high-visibility vest allows the operator more time to avoid the working, potentially saving the worker's life.
On large construction sites with many workers who mostly don't know each other, the vests help distinguishing unwelcome visitors, including exploring youngsters and pedestrians who want to take a short cut. Anyone without a vest will be expelled immediately for safety and health reasons. In the case of accidents on site, the vests will make it easier for emergency workers to locate unconscious workers in uneven terrain.
Delivery drivers, new construction crews and trucks are often dispatched to construction sites in areas unknown to them. If the construction site is still in the first stages of work, it can be difficult for the driver to make out the exact position, particularly if he is looking for a giant hole in the ground in the early hours of the morning. A presence of high-visibility safety vests moving around in the distance not only indicates the existence of a construction site, but also tells the driver to exit the highway in time to reach the site.
Construction companies usually provide their employees and hired workers with high-visibility vests that have the company logo printed on the back. The vests not only help the individual crews from various companies to distinguish themselves from each other, but transform the workers into important advertisement placards for the company, particularly on construction sites with large crews.