New Federal Law Requires Safety Vests For Photographers On Roadways

By Alicia Wagner Calzada

SAN ANTONIO, TX (October 23, 2008) – A new law goes into effect on November 24, 2008, which will require all workers on federal highways to wear high visibility safety apparel, which apparently also includes photojournalists who are there to cover news.

While the law does not specifically list members of the media, it includes “people on foot whose duties place them within the right-of-way of a Federal-aid highway, such as ... responders to incidents within the highway right-of-way.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation has repeatedly stated that it considers the media to be included under this law. During the legislative comment period the DOT received requests to expand the definition to include media workers. The Federal Highway Administration responded that the term ``responders to incidents'' includes media representatives.

There is no specific federal fine for individuals who fail to comply. However, compliance is advisable for several other reasons. Hari Kalla of the Department of Transportation says that lack of compliance by agencies and states will directly affect funding of road projects. Because of this, states will likely enact follow-up legislation to encourage compliance. It is those rules may involve fines or other penalties for photographers who fail to comply with the rules.

Additionally, persons not wearing appropriate safety gear may bear increased liability if injured in an accident. By not wearing the gear, photographers who are injured in an accident may be considered partially at fault under the concept of contributory negligence (violating a law creates a legal presumption of negligence). If all other workers at a scene are wearing high-visibility clothing, a photographer who is not will not only be the least visible person at the scene, and will therefore be at a greater risk of being hit by a vehicle, and may also subject themselves to being barred from stopping on the roadway because of non-compliance.

A “federal-aid highway” is defined as any road that has used federal funds in its construction and/or maintenance. State departments of transportation usually have maps available that indicate which highways are federal aid highways. According to Kalla, state and county roads are usually federally funded while local and rural roads usually are not.

In order for garments to qualify as high visibility safety apparel the safety vests must meet a standard known as “ANSI 107-2004 class II.” A Google search for “high-visibility garment” or “ANSI 107-2004” results in a wide variety of available outlets that include vests and jackets. Compliant garments should have a tag that reads “ANSI 107-2004 class II.”

While the use of reflective tape on regular clothing does not comply with the standard, compliant vests can typically be purchased for under $20.

The National Press Photographers Association recommends that all photography departments provide their staff with compliant high visibility safety apparel for the reasons listed above. NPPA also recommends that photographers wear the safety garments whenever they are out in traffic.

A company named Iron Horse Safety also offers ANSI compliant vests in mesh lime, mesh orange, solid lime, and solid orange colors with velcro or zipper fronts and in sizes up to 5XL.

As photojournalist Mark Hertzberg of the Journal Times in Racine, WI, pointed out, some photographers will need to own two vests – a summer vest, big enough to fit over a lightweight shirt, and a winter vest, large enough to pull on over a heavy-duty winter coat or several layers of cold weather clothing.

The National Newspaper Association is selling a vest for $15 that meets the requirements with the word "PRESS" printed on the back in large letters.



All workers within the right-of-way of a Federal-aid highway who are exposed either to traffic (vehicles using the highway for purposes of travel) or to construction equipment within the work area shall wear high-visibility safety apparel. 23 C.F.R. § 634.3.

Workers means people on foot whose duties place them within the right-of-way of a Federal-aid highway, such as highway construction and maintenance forces, survey crews, utility crews, responders to incidents within the highway right-of-way, and law enforcement personnel when directing traffic, investigating crashes, and handling lane closures, obstructed roadways, and disasters within the right-of-way of a Federal-aid highway. 23 C.F.R. § 634.2

High-visibility safety apparel means personal protective safety clothing that is intended to provide conspicuity during both daytime and nighttime usage, and that meets the Performance Class 2 or 3 requirements of the ANSI/ISEA 107-2004 publication entitled "American National Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel and Headwear." 23 C.F.R. § 634.2


Alicia Wagner Calzada is the chairperson of NPPA's Advocacy Committee and an NPPA past president.