High-visibility warning garments are required safety attire for highway and road construction workers, according to a new letter of interpretation recently released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

“Highway construction workers should not suffer serious or fatal injuries simply because they could not be seen,” said Jordan Barab, acting assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. “Requiring the use of reflective vests is essential to help prevent workers from being injured or killed.”

In 2004, OSHA issued a letter of interpretation about the use of high-visibility apparel in highway construction. It emphasized that section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act requires workers in highway work zones to wear high-visibility apparel.

However, the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission ruled that OSHA’s letter indicated a more limited position: high-visibility garments are only required where the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) mandates their use.

Therefore, OSHA is issuing a new letter stating that all highway and road construction workers must wear high-visibility apparel regardless of whether the MUTCD requires them. OSHA considers road and construction traffic a well-recognized hazard to highway/road construction workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reinforced the need for using safety apparel when data from 2003 to 2007 showed there had been 425 road construction work zone fatalities.