What do Safety Vests Color Mean? (Explained)

Safety Vest ColorsSafety vests generally come in two basic colors: fluorescent green-yellow and fluorescent orange. But apart from these two basic colors, there are 4 other colors as well that are used in safety vests and they are red, green, purple and blue.

Now the question is what do the colors mean?

To answer that, we can shortly tell that both the fluorescent colors are just meant to be noticeable from far in order to prevent being struck down by a vehicle.

The fluorescent colors save them from moving vehicles when the workers are working in the dark, in busy traffic and also in the construction sites.

In this article I am going to tell you in detail about the two colors of the safety vests and what they really mean, that is why and where are they used.

So, without any further delay…

Let’s get started!

Orange Color Safety Vest

Orange safety vests are actually fluorescent orange in color because safety vests are meant to be bright, fluorescent and attractive or visible from very far. The orange safety vests are used by:

Why and when are they used?

Orange safety vests are used in open areas, especially for the day time. They are used to make a contrast with:

      • The green environment
      • The blue sky
      • The yellow sunlight
      • The black background

Orange Safety Vests

The contrast of color the orange safety vests make with these backgrounds accounts to its use in those environments.

The Yellow Safety Vests

Yellow safety vests are actually fluorescent green-yellow in color and they are meant to prevent accidents and to keep people safe. The yellow safety vests are used by:

      • Construction workers
      • Emergency responders
      • Workers who work outdoors

Why and when are they used?

Yellow safety vests are mostly used at the night time because the human brain notices the fluorescent yellow color from a far distance and that is also one of the reasons behind using this color for warning signs and hazard symbols.

Yellow Safety Vests at Night

The red safety vests:

Generally the red safety vests are used by firefighters and emergency responders. The fluorescent red color enables victims and distressed people in danger to recognise their rescuers from afar and lend a helping cry to them. 

Red safety vests

The red safety vests are also used by security inspectors. The red safety vests allow the workers to recognise their inspectors from afar and work in discipline in his presence and also avoid obstructing him with any obstacle.

The blue safety vests:

Blue safety vests

The blue safety vests are also used by two groups of working men. First of all, the blue safety vests are worn by police officers and security guards while on their duty and secondly, the blue safety vests are worn by the technical guys who take care of all the machinery and equipment in the site.

The green safety vests:

The green safety vests are used by the surveyors and the landscapers while on their duty in a busy area or in the dark.

The purple safety vests:

Purple safety vests

The purple safety vests are worn by the hazardous material teams who deal with toxic substances and chemicals so that you need to be far away from them while you notice them coming.

The selection of colors:

If you want to know which color safety is the best for you, you need a deeper understanding of some factors like conspicuous, contrast and recognition which I have mentioned below:

What do you mean by conspicuity?

The term conspicuity refers to the ability of the object’s color to come to direct notice of the observers. 

But what are the factors that make an object color noticeable in complex environments such as a busy traffic area which is filled with a number of colors?

The key factors working behind conspicuity are:

      • Contrast
      • Recognition

Now let me explain these two terms in details:


Contrast Safety VestContrast means a color that is very different and unique to the rest of the background colors.
Contrast is essential for detection and detection can be attained by using a fluorescent color that is very different from the rest of the background. 

For example, if the background environment consists of more of greeneries and the worker wears fluorescent green-yellow, it won’t be a visible or distinguished from far because the yellow color will mix with the green background.

Therefore, in order to make the worker visible we have to make a contrast in the object color and the background, and this can be achieved by the orange safety vest because orange would give a good contrast with the green colored background and the worker would be visible from a far distance by any fast driven vehicle. And the yellow color would be better suitable with a black background.


Recognition refers to the subconscious response to a particular color. While fluorescent yellow is the brightest color on the chromaticity scale and can be detected fastest by the human brain than any other colors, orange on the other hand, compels the human mind to think of impending hazards or dangers. 

While the yellow color might be used for less risky jobs that is traffic signalers or off-road construction workers, orange on the other hand being able to set a good contrast with the green and brown natural environment, might be used for on-road construction workers.

Are there any other color safety vests? 

Yes there are various other colors available in safety jackets like fluorescent yellow-green, fluorescent orange-red, fluorescent red bright yellow-green, or fluorescent orange-red.

What color reflective safety vest are OSHA approved?

According to OSHA regulation, workers must wear an orange, yellow, or bright yellow-green vest, shirt, or jacket during the day.

And those working at night must wear a “retro-reflective” vest, shirt, or jacket that reflects a high percentage of headlamp beams back.

The retroreflective material must be orange, yellow, white, silver, or a bright yellow-green color, and it may also be fluorescent.

Before we say Good Bye:

Both the colors work very well for safety purposes. While the orange safety vest makes a great contrast with the background environment, the fluorescent green-yellow safety vest is noticed by the human brain very fast and from a greater distance as compared to the other colors.

You have to choose one between the two according to your work conditions and the requirements.

The safeties offered by both the colors on their own grounds are unparallel.

That’s all guys for today. We will be back shortly with another piece of information. Till then, take care, stay safe and…

Work safely!

Stephen Luettgen
I have 12+ years of experience in construction, inspections, handy work, and currently working as a Construction Site Manager. In today’s day we spent a significant part of our time at workplace and a right work gear can have significant impact not only on your safety but also work quality.

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