What Is a Reflex Vest?

B. Turner

A reflex vest is a piece of personal safety gear that is made from reflective materials. This garment is generally designed to be worn over the clothes, and may take the form of a sleeveless vest, short-sleeved shirt or long-sleeved jacket. Many highway workers and construction crew members wear these vests, though they are also worn by police, runners, and bikers. The reflective materials on the surface of these vests make it easier for motorists to spot workers, which helps to reduce the risk of accidents or injuries. A reflex vest can also be used to help members of the public identify officials and emergency personnel during a major event, emergency, or accident scenario.

Construction workers and road repair personnel frequently wear these vests to make themselves more visible.
Construction workers and road repair personnel frequently wear these vests to make themselves more visible.

While the design of the vest can vary by manufacturer, these vests generally come in very vivid colors, such as neon orange, yellow, or green. The entire vest might be covered with reflective material, or certain sections can be lined with strips of reflective tape. One of the most common models features a strip of reflective tape running around the body at waist level, with two parallel strips running vertically, similar to a pair of suspenders.

Reflex vests can help identify emergency personnel.
Reflex vests can help identify emergency personnel.

Many reflex vests consist of lightweight mesh, which helps keep the wearer cool when working outdoors. This is particularly important for highway workers, who might be less willing to wear a safety vest if it increased body temperature on hot days. The average vest is sleeveless, and may include a set of Velcro® straps to hold it in place. More advanced models feature either long or short sleeves, which helps to increase visibility on cooler days.

Construction workers and road repair personnel frequently wear these vests to make themselves more visible to motorists and equipment operators. Bikers and runners who are exercising on public roads may also use a reflex vest to improve safety and help prevent accidents. Many police and emergency officials wear these safety vests during major events or emergencies. Even in scenarios where motor vehicle accidents are unlikely, the bright colors of the vest can make emergency workers easier to spot. Some models are even designed for use by children to make them more visible when walking at night.

In some areas, workers are required by law to wear a reflex vest when operating machinery, working around equipment, or performing road repairs. Local, state, and federal agencies that require the use of these vests often specify the exact design and materials that should be used to maximize visibility. Where the vests are not required by law, workers may choose to wear them for safety reasons, or companies might enact policies that all employees must wear these vests.

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Discussion Comments


I've noticed these--especially the short-sleeve and sleeveless ones--everywhere I've been running lately. Are they now as much a fashion statement as they are a safety measure? This isn't a criticism, but just wondering how much style and brand really matter. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

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