Unfortunately, there were 843 farm fatalities between 2003 and 2012 in Canada. More than 500 of these fatalities involved equipment. Run over deaths where operators were not able to see the victim occurred in more than 17% of cases.

As we all know, large farm equipment can have significant blind spots, and parts of the equipment can obstruct the operator’s line of sight, preventing them from seeing all the way around the equipment and limiting their visibility.

Technology has come a long way in improving operator visibility; lights, mirrors and cameras can greatly increase the area operators can see, but it is still important that pedestrians and other workers on the farm do their part to ensure they can be seen. One way to increase pedestrian visibility is to wear high-visibility safety apparel.

What is high-visibility safety apparel?

High-visibility safety apparel (HVSA) is clothing workers wear to improve how well other people see them. It is worn by pedestrians and equipment operators when working around moving vehicles and equipment (forklifts, skid steers, tractors, etc.) to alert drivers and other vehicle operators of your presence. High-visibility clothing is especially important in dark or low-light conditions or when weather conditions, such as fog or rain, may affect visibility.

Wearing HVSA gives drivers/operators greater ability to see you from far away and in areas with poor visibility; this allows the driver/operator to respond accordingly. Worker visibility when wearing HVSA is enhanced by the high colour contrast between the clothing and the worker’s surroundings, which increases the person’s safety while at work.

Typically, HVSA is fluorescent and/or retroreflective. Fluorescent material takes a portion of invisible ultraviolet light from sunlight and, through special pigments, sends it back to the viewer as more visible light. Fluorescent material appears brighter than the non-fluorescent material of the same colour, especially in low natural light. This is especially useful at dusk and dawn. Retroreflective material is produced to return light in the direction of a light source. It is most useful in low-light conditions. Retroreflective material does not increase your visibility in sunny daytime conditions. A combination of the two materials, retroreflective material that is also fluorescent, is the best option.

High-visibility clothing may include a vest or jacket made of high visibility material worn over the person’s typical clothing, or it may include high-visibility components built into the clothing, such as retroreflective strips on the arms or legs or a T-shirt made of fluorescent material.

Design requirements for high-visibility safety clothing are generally found in the CSA Standard Z96-15 (R2020), High-Visibility Safety Apparel. In the U.S., the design requirements are outlined in the ANSI/ISEA 107-2015 2020 American National Standard for High-visibility Safety Apparel and Accessories.

Safety on the farm

A farm can be a busy and hazardous place, especially when people are walking around and equipment is driving around and coming in and out of the barn or bunker silo. A proactive approach to safety is essential, and a key aspect of safety is being visible at all times when on the farm. High-visibility clothing can make it much easier to see pedestrians in any area of the farm. This is especially true in the early hours of the morning, later in the evening and when weather conditions affect visibility.

Implementing HVSA is a simple and cost-effective way to decrease the risk of collisions on a farm. We strongly recommend you consider when and where high-visibility apparel can be used on your farm to increase visibility of pedestrians and reduce the risk of collisions. It should be made a part of a farm’s daily routine, just like doing pre-use inspections and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) when necessary.

Children on the farm

With summer fast approaching, there will be an increase in the number of children working and playing around family farms. It is difficult, if not impossible, to see or hear children while you are running farm machinery. Children have an innate sense of wonder yet little life experience to draw on and have little awareness of risk, so will often wander into danger unwittingly. Tragically, one of the most common sources of serious and fatal injuries of farm children is being run over by equipment being operated in various areas of the farm. Making sure children wear HVSA will help them stand out to the other workers on the farm, especially the workers operating heavy machinery.

Farm safety is everyone’s responsibility

Safety is everyone’s responsibility, and a major part to your own safety is ensuring you are visible on the farm. Wearing HVSA can alert a busy farmyard to your presence. Taking a few extra minutes to put on high-visibility clothing such as hats, shirts or a vest is a simple way to increase your safety. It sets a positive example for others to follow suit. By making some simple changes, like throwing on a vest, and showing that farm safety is everyone’s responsibility, we can reduce the chance of accidents on the farm. end mark

Getty Images.

Cheryl DeCooman, CHRL, can also be reached at (519) 532-2508 or on Twitter and Instagram


Cheryl DeCooman

Cheryl DeCooman


People Management Group

Email Cheryl DeCooman