EDC Magazine is supported by its audience. When you purchase via our links, we may get a commission. Learn more

Safety Vest Colors Meaning (Everything Explained)

Fact checked by Andrew Carnegie

safety vest colors meaning

Safety vests are one of the essential apparel for workers, especially those working in low-light or hazardous conditions, to ensure that they are safe. These are designed with highly visible colors that reflect light, making the wearer easily recognizable and visible to their colleagues and everyone in their surroundings.

But why do these vests have different colors? In this ultimate guide, you will learn the safety vest colors meaning, and even more!

Different Meanings of Each Color

1. Safety classes


Before going into the safety vest color code, it is first important to know the classes of safety vests are set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and then approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Moreover, ANSI 107 establishes specific guidelines for the design and performance of safety vests. This regulation is particularly stringent when it comes to the required levels of fluorescence and reflection that a vest must possess.

There are three classes of safety vests: Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3. These classifications are used to determine which vest is appropriate for a particular workplace. Here are their differences:

  • Class 1


The OSHA provides that class 1 safety vests should be worn by individuals who work in areas with the least level of risk. An area is considered a low-risk if the traffic therein is 25 mph or less. These usually include those who work in:

  • Mines
  • Oil and gas extraction and refinery
  • Warehouse
  • Parking lots

To comply with safety standards, Class 1 vests should feature reflective tape that measures at least 155 sq. inches, while the background material should measure a minimum of 217 sq. inches. This tape should be layered over reflective material and be visible on both the shoulders and around the abdomen.

Despite being in low-risk areas, workers are still advised to be deployed away from traffic. At the same time, the worksite should be visually simple and should not have complex visual patterns or elements.

  • Class 2


Class 2 vests, just like those in class 1, are prescribed for those who work in areas with lower visibility and heavier traffic. The speed of traffic in such an area may exceed 25 mph up to 50 mph. Some notable examples include:

  • School crossings
  • Railways and public transits
  • Tolls
  • Road construction (less than 50 mph)
  • Tarmac

The reflective tape must measure at least 201 sq. inches, while the background must be at least 755 sq. inches. This tape should be on top of the reflective material and should have stripes over both shoulders and horizontal stripes around the midsection.

  • Class 3


Class 3 vests, having the most stringent material requirements, are worn by individuals working in areas with the highest risk level, considering that these areas may have traffic flow exceeding 50 mph. They’re a must-have for:

  • Roadside workers (more than 50 mph)
  • Truck operators
  • Investigators at incident sites
  • Utility workers

The reflective tape in these vests must be at least 310 sq. inches and 1,240 sq. inches of background material.

2. Different color safety vest meaning


There are three colors in the high visibility color chart approved as background colors. These background colors provide contrast which makes the fluorescent tapes or reflective material pop out.

  • Fluorescent Orange (Safety Orange)
  • Fluorescent Yellow (Safety Yellow)
  • Fluorescent Red

However, other than the three colors mentioned above, you may also see black or blue safety vest. Read on to find out more about safety jacket colour code in construction and other professions.

  • Orange Safety Vests


Orange construction jackets or safety vests are commonly worn in open areas during daylight hours. Wearing orange will make the wearer stand out against the natural green surroundings, the blue sky, the yellow sunlight, and even darker backgrounds.

Sometimes referred to as a “hazard identifier,” orange is usually worn by construction workers and traffic signalers. That said, hunters may also wear this color while in the forest to inform other hunters of their presence, minimizing their chances of accidentally getting shot.

  • Yellow Safety Vests ( Lime green safety vest )


Yellow is widely recognized as one of the most visually striking colors, making it highly visible to the human eye. Thus, fluorescent vests with this color are ideal to be worn in hazardous workplaces or during nighttime.

Workers who have to handle oil will usually wear this vest, as the yellow will get brighter when stained with oils rather than getting duller. Group leaders also wear this color often.

  • Red Safety Vests


Red safety vests are typically worn by emergency or first responders, such as firefighters, to stand out from other service workers. In a normal working environment, though, red means that the wearer is a security inspector.

  • Blue Safety Vests


The blue safety vest meaning can vary depending on where it is used. For example, they are worn to distinguish between departments or tell specific individuals within a specific organization or group.

For instance, they can be worn by medical personnel to set themselves apart from the first respondents. In some places, security guards and police officers don them.

  • Black Safety Vests


When it comes to high-visibility vests, the color black is often not one of the colors that come to mind.

Because it is not a bright color, a black safety vest meaning indicates that it can only be worn in low-risk workplaces. It is also safe to say that they are worn by individuals who may not necessarily be required to wear them but still do so in order to promote workplace safety.

The classification helps the wearer to determine the safety vest that is suitable for their job and their work settings.

Frequently Asked Questions


What is the difference between Safety Yellow and Safety Green?

When it comes to discussing safety yellow vs safety green, you may be surprised to know that there’s actually not a lot of difference between the two.

The hues of the two colors are identical. However, it is normally up to the manufacturers to decide whether they will label their products as safety yellow or safety green.

What are the OSHA Safety Colors?

OSHA-approved safety colors are red and yellow. According to its standards, red must be used to mark fire-related physical hazards, such as emergency switches, bars, alarms, etc.

On the other hand, yellow is used to warn people of objects that may cause an individual to trip, fall, slip, etc.

What is ANSI Color coding?

The colors used by ANSI are designed for visual communication. These colors are as follows:

  • Red is used to identify the most serious hazards, including fire hazards.
  • Orange is used to label machines that have the potential to cause fatal or severe injuries to workers.
  • Safety color yellow means caution.
  • Green is used for general safety markings.
  • Blue is typically used on notice labels.


In any workplace, ensuring the safety of employees is a top priority. This is why every aspect of workplace safety, from the equipment right to the safety vests, requires careful consideration.

It is interesting to note that even the colors used in safety vests can make a significant difference in promoting safety. The colors convey crucial information, such as the level of risk associated with a particular job, making it easier for workers to choose the appropriate vest for their tasks.

Understanding the safety vest colors meaning, you can not only prevent accidents but also make informed decisions while on the job. This will ultimately lead to a safer work environment for yourself and for everyone around you.

5/5 - (3 votes)