The best reflective safety vest

Brett Dvoretz

Reflective safety vests should be worn by anyone performing an activity in low-light conditions where vehicles may be present. This includes roadside workers, parking lot attendants, cyclists, joggers and even people walking their dog at night or early in the morning.

When choosing a reflective safety vest, there are many more things to consider than simply the fit and style. You’ll also want to look at features like the number of pockets, the closure style and the type of material. If purchasing one for roadside work, you’ll need a vest that carries the ANSI/ISEA Type R and Class Two ratings at the very least, such as the JKSafety Nine-Pocket High-Visibility Safety Vest.

What to know before you buy a reflective safety vest

Understanding type and class ratings of high-visibility clothing

High-visibility clothing designed for job site use has a type and class rating. The type is a designation for the expected use settings, while the class identifies how much reflective material and other design attributes that can enhance visibility are incorporated into the garment. Following is a brief explanation of each of these types and classes.

Type O: Intended for off-road use where workers may potentially be stuck by moving vehicles or machinery, but are not exposed to traffic on public highways and roads.

Type R: Acceptable for occupational environments where workers will be exposed to traffic on public roads and highways, or to work vehicles and construction equipment within a roadway’s temporary traffic-control zone.

Type P: Designed for first responders, law enforcement and other emergency personnel working in locations that include exposure to public traffic, work vehicles and construction equipment in temporary traffic-control zones or those going to or leaving these zones.

Class One: These garments have the minimum amount of high-visibility material required to make the wearer stand out in non-complex work environments. This designation is only found in clothing intended for off-road applications.

Class Two: Reflective safety vests with a Class Two rating have additional high-visibility materials to create better definition of the human figure. This is the minimum rating acceptable for use around public roadways and temporary traffic zones.

Class Three: Class Three-rated clothing has the most high-visibility material to make the wearer stand out in the busiest of work environments. It should be noted that sleeveless reflective safety vests alone cannot meet the Class Three rating.

Supplement Class E:  This is a supplemental designation for additional garments you can combine with your main piece of high-visibility clothing to increase the overall rating. For example, combining Class E-rated pants with a Class Two-rated high-visibility reflective vest would make the entire ensemble meet the Class Three rating standard.

Reflective safety vest features

Reflective safety vest sizes

Just like other clothing, reflective vests come in a range of sizes. They should be loose enough not to restrict movement, but not so loose they could potentially become a hazard. When picking out your size, consider what other garments you’ll be wearing with the vest. If you live in cold climates and will be wearing a thick jacket or sweater underneath your safety vest, you may need to buy a vest that is one size larger than you normally would.

Closure types on a reflective safety vest

Manufacturers utilize several closure methods on their reflective vests including zippers, hook-and-loop fasteners and buckles. Of these, hook-and-loop fasteners are the least secure, but it may be unavoidable if you are looking for the cheapest vest possible.

Pockets on a reflective safety vest

Some reflective safety vests have several pockets, while others don’t have any. The former is handy for people who need to carry a lot of items for their job and want to keep them easily accessible, while the latter is better for those who prefer a streamlined vest with no bulk. If choosing a model with pockets, consider if you need closures on them, and what kind you prefer.

ID window on a reflective safety vest

Those working on job sites that require identification to be on display at all times should look for a safety vest with an ID window on the front. These are usually located in the chest area for easy visibility.

Reflective safety vest attachment loops

If your job requires you to carry a radio or another item you need to access regularly, choosing a reflective vest with attachment loops is a smart idea. These provide you with a secure, yet out of the way, place to clip your equipment so you won’t have to constantly reach into a pocket to retrieve it.

Reflective safety vest cost 

Reflective safety vests are affordable by nearly anyone’s standard, but the additional safety they provide is invaluable. You can expect to spend between $5 and $20 for most reflective vests, depending on the build quality, closure type and various extra features.

Reflective safety vest FAQ

Can I put a reflective vest in the washing machine?

A. Most reflective vests are safe to put in the washing machine, but you should never just assume so. Make sure to check the care instructions that come with your vest before tossing it in the machine. This will indicate whether it is machine washable and at what water temperature.

Who should wear a reflective safety vest?

A. Anyone whose safety can be increased by improving other people’s ability to see you should consider wearing a reflective vest. This includes construction, forestry and warehouse workers, parking lot attendants, baggage handlers and emergency response personnel. This also applies to cyclists and joggers who exercise along the roadside.

Which reflective safety vest should I get?

Best of the best reflective safety vest

JKSafety Nine-Pocket Class Two High-Visibility Zipper Front Safety Vest: available at Amazon

Our take: A rugged vest with several pockets of varying sizes, this one is well suited to workers in a variety of settings.

What we like: It’s available in big and tall sizes, is fully compliant with ANSI/ISEA standards and is machine washable for easy care.

What we dislike: It doesn’t breathe well and can get overly hot in warm climates.

Best bang for your buck reflective safety vest

Neiko 53941A High-Visibility Safety Vest: available at Amazon

Our take: The Neiko 53941A is just as reflective as other brands but comes at a fraction of the price, making it a good choice for companies that need to buy a lot of vests for their employees.

What we like: It has a lightweight, breathable construction that wearers will appreciate on hot and sunny days, and it features thick vertical and horizontal reflective stripes for maximum visibility.

What we dislike: It doesn’t have any pockets, which can be a dealbreaker for some.

Honorable mention reflective safety vest

Flectson Reflective Vest: available at Amazon

Our take: A good choice for runners and cyclists, the Flectson Reflective Vest is breathable and has a fitted design.

What we like: Hook-and-loop closures around the midsection allow you to adjust the sizing as needed, and it has a small zippered pocket on the inside for a phone or other valuables.

What we dislike: It isn’t suitable for jobsite applications.

Brett Dvoretz is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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