The 10 Best Safety Vests
This wiki has been updated 32 times since it was first published in August of 2015. When you’re hiking, jogging, or working on a job site at night, don’t risk an accident by being invisible in the dark. Even during the day, these safety vests ensure that you stand out at all times, so that motorists, cyclists, and other people can’t miss you. They’re reflective, come in a variety of sizes, and some even include special features, like pen pockets and transparent ID compartments. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
April 29, 2021:
Fortunately for us, safety vests don’t cycle in and out of fashion all that quickly, so we found this list to still be in good shape and not requiring a lot of changes. But, we did end up bumping the Turvizo Reflective up a couple spots, because we thought that its sparse design – which really makes it more of a harness than a vest – might be preferred by active users who are looking to be safe while jogging or cycling, as compared to workers who might favor options with pockets that offer storage.
We also removed the Active Kyds Yellow, which wasn’t available at the time of this writing, and replaced it with the JKSafety Class 2 — an alternate child-sized choice that’s ANSI compliant and available in five fun colors that kids are likely to enjoy. It’s a good choice for children who are crossing guards, or for anytime you want to bring your kid to work and have them feel like they’re really part of the crew (part of the crew who won’t get you written up for a safety infraction).
Vests like these are great, because they tend to be very affordable and you can often easily combine them with your existing work apparel, but they can also be a pain during winter, when layering up means that your vest might no longer fit. If your company’s safety program demands high-vis gear and you’ve got a cold workplace, then you might be better off investing in a good high-visibility jacket. And, if you’re a pet owner, don’t forget to find a matching outfit for your four-legged friend on our list of reflective dog vests.
March 09, 2020:
Removed one item because it was unavailable. Despite its lack of pockets, we gave the Neiko Neon an upgrade. For those who simply prefer a basic, low-cost option that will stand the test of time, it should more than suit their needs.
We noted the assortment of pockets and compartments on the JKSafety 51112L — as well as its professional appearance and quality craftsmanship — but we did discover that the sizing is a bit inaccurate. As a result, we dropped it slightly in the rankings.
Added the Shine Bright SV544BK, which includes a special slot for an identification badge, an attribute that comes in handy for law enforcement personnel. Users seem to appreciate the padded collar and its ability to fit over bulky outerwear.
Qore Performance IceVest As a benefit to those who toil in environments that can become uncomfortably hot or cold, this creative model incorporates special plates that provide cooling or warming power. It comes in two sizes, has adjustable shoulder straps, and includes a useful tool belt. qoreperformance.com
Uline Class 2 Deluxe These straightforward vests don’t possess a bunch of extravagant features, but their vivid design will make you easy to distinguish at any time of day. You can choose from options with or without exterior pockets, and they’re safe to throw in the washing machine. uline.com
NSI MCR Hi-Vis NSI has been creating quality safety gear for more than 30 years. Sized and styled specifically for women, the lightweight, breathable feel of this vest makes it suitable for all-day wear. It’s available in several sizes, with a front zipper closure and multiple inner and outer pockets. northernsafety.com
Why All Safety Vests Are Not Created Equal
Be sure to keep in mind, however, that once you buy that vest, you own it.
A safety vest, by and large, is a utility. That being the case, it's important to purchase a vest that will satisfy your needs without making it more difficult for you to complete any task.
The first thing anyone notices about a safety vest is the color. Yes, you want that color to be bright, preferably even neon and reflective. Bright safety vests aren't only a precaution, they could make a significant difference if a workplace injury or any similar lawsuit ever goes to trial. The point being, you want a safety vest that prioritizes substance over style.
Every safety vest is meant to be worn as an outer layer, which means you'll want that vest to give you access to deep pockets. These pockets should be capable of storing pens, cell phones, and perhaps even a flashlight, or a whistle, at the very least. Ideally, a vest should be durable, and made out of a polyester blend. Depending on the climate, you may want that vest to have mesh flaps for ventilation, and you may also want that vest to be weatherproof, assuming that you work outdoors.
If you need a safety vest for something minor, perhaps a one-time event, you may be able to save a few bucks by purchasing a muted vest that only features one or two reflective strips. Be sure to keep in mind, however, that once you buy that vest, you own it. And you never know when you might need to reuse that vest a little further down the road (please see below).
Several Little-Known Uses For a Safety Vest
Perhaps you need a safety vest for work, or for some volunteer organization that you're a member of. On the surface, you might think that this is a necessity purchase. And yet the reality is that owning a safety vest could be a lot more valuable than you'd think.
Any locals in distress can put on a safety vest so that they're more visible to emergency personnel.
Certain parents, specifically chaperons, prefer to wear safety vests in crowded areas so that children can always spot them. Runners and bikers wear safety vests when weaving along dark roads at night. It pays to keep a safety vest in your trunk so that you can alert traffic, police, or a tow truck in the event that your car breaks down. There are studies that have proven motorcyclists are actually less likely to get hit if they're wearing high-visibility clothing on their backs.
Safety vests are worn by race volunteers so that athletes know how to spot water stops, and first aid tents, and turns along the course. High-visibility vests should always be worn in dense woods during hunting season, regardless of whether someone is hunting or not. Anyone who volunteers during a rescue effort (e.g., an earthquake or a flood) should wear a safety vest so they're more visible to any locals in distress. Any locals in distress can put on a safety vest so that they're more visible to emergency personnel.
A Brief History of The Safety Vest
Florescent safety vests were originally worn by British railway workers during the 1960s. These vests, which were referred to as "fireflies," became part of a high-visibility initiative that was largely geared toward reducing injuries - and possible derailments - along a specific British Railways line. Railway engineers reported feeling so reassured that firefly vests almost immediately spread to various parts of the UK, including Birmingham, Liverpool, London, and more.
Florescent safety vests were originally worn by British railway workers during the 1960s.
Over the next 10 years these lightweight vests made their way to America, where construction crews and crossing guards began wearing them to minimize the risk of any accidents. Soon after, a number of plants and factories made safety vests a requisite part of their PPE (i.e., Personal Protective Equipment).
By the 1980s, a litany of studies had concluded that high-visibility clothing was an effective means of reducing injuries, along with workplace accidents, and related costs. Whereas a lot of PPE was worn to protect a company's workers, a safety vest was also effective at protecting the company itself. As an example, imagine a paving company that's been slapped with a lawsuit due to the result of a driver suffering injuries after veering onto a closed road. Said company is in a better position to defend itself assuming the entire paving crew was wearing florescent vests that could be proven visible from a half-mile or more.
Today, safety vests are widely mandated by OSHA at every major plant, factory, and volatile facility across the U.S. These vests continue to be worn by traffic officers, construction workers, road crews, group leaders, event directors, hunters, and emergency personnel.