published Monday, July 25th, 2011

For working or working out, vivid clothing can be a life-saver

Chattanooga Public Works employee Albert Leon Lloyd wears an iridescent lime green vest as he directs traffic at a road repair job on 38th Street. The fabric is a dry-wick material, which makes workers more comfortable in the heat.
Chattanooga Public Works employee Albert Leon Lloyd wears an iridescent lime green vest as he directs traffic at a road repair job on 38th Street. The fabric is a dry-wick material, which makes workers more comfortable in the heat.
Photo by John Rawlston.

Every morning, Laurie Shipley puts on a neon-orange reflective vest before heading out for her 5 a.m. walk. When the weather gets cold, she adds a headlamp.

“[It] helps folks see me,” Shipley said. “I wear a vest because my neighborhood does not have sidewalks; and if there are cars, they sometimes go a little faster that time of the morning. I’m guessing the drivers don’t believe there will be any type of traffic.”

Though Shipley wears a high-visibility vest for personal safety when she’s walking for exercise, others wear vivid clothes while on the job.

High-visibility clothing helps keep people safe, said Lee Norris, deputy administrator with the city of Chattanooga Department of Public Works. “Anything we can do to help say, ‘Here I am,’ we’re going to do for our employees,” he said.

In the last two years, Public Works employees have transitioned from wearing bright orange reflective clothing to an iridescent lime green color, said Tony Boyd, Public Works assistant director of operations.

“We changed from a vest that had reflective strips, which is what the American National Standards Institute recommended at the time, to clothing that is fully reflective,” he said. “The fabric is a dry-wick material that is more comfortable and more highly visible. It meets all the ANSI standards.”

Standards for high-visibility safety apparel are generally developed for workers who are exposed to hazardous traffic conditions, according to the Standards Institute. ANSI and related organizations, including the International Safety Equipment Association and the American Society for Testing and Materials, have established a set of performance criteria for high-visibility safety apparel. Guidelines are based on worker hazards and tasks, complexity of the work environment and vehicular traffic and speed.

Ringgold, Ga., resident Denny Marshall, president of Scenic City Multisport, is a triathlete who religiously wears reflective clothing when on the road.

“I wear the bright green jerseys when biking,” he said.

Even open-water swimmers turn to reflective gear when in the water.

“The first time I showed up to swim in the Tennessee River, I had a navy blue cap and black suit,” said Celeste Whitmire Williams, a member of a local open-water swim group. “I was promptly handed a bright yellow cap to increase my visibility.

Because bobbing heads and flailing arms are not easily seen by high-speed boat traffic, swimmers in the group take efforts to make themselves as visible as possible. Precautions include wearing brightly colored swim caps in DayGlo, hot pink and white.

“This is about as high of a contrast as you can get with the river and its natural surroundings,” Whitmire Williams said. “You don’t mistake hot pink for a log.”

Local Public Works employees’ high-visible clothing ranges from everyday shirts and vests to weather-specific apparel, such as jackets and rain pants.

Boyd makes it a priority to keep up with the latest in high-visible clothing because he wants Public Works employees to be safe while out in the field.

“The lime green we now have offers extreme high visibility [day and night],” he said.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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