The Federal Department of Transportation (DOT) requires the use, with certain exceptions for firefighters, of high-visibility safety vests when firefighters are operating on “Federal Aid highways”.
This policy is designed to meet the intent of the 2007 edition of NFPA 1500 and the U.S. Department of Transportation, 23 CFR Part 634,and the “Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices” (MUTCD).
The following is the applicable section from CFR 23:
§ 634.3 Rule. 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. Firefighters or other emergency responders working within the right-of-way of a Federal-aid highway and engaged in emergency operations that directly expose them to flame, fire, heat, and/or hazardous materials may wear retro reflective turn-out gear that is specified and regulated by other organizations, such as the National Fire Protection Association. Firefighters or other emergency responders working within the right-of-way of a Federal-aid highway and engaged in any other types of operations shall wear high-visibility safety apparel.
American National Standards Institute (ANSI) 207 compliant safety vests will be issued to all apparatus and shall be stored so they are readily accessible by personnel. Vests are large enough to fit over turnout gear.
Responding Personnel shall wear vests at all incidents within the right of way of limited access highways: I-95, Route 7 Connector, Merritt Parkway.
Vests shall be donned when directed to do so by the company officer, but at the latest upon exiting the apparatus.
It is highly recommended that personnel also wear safety vests when operating at incidents on local roadways.
Personnel shall be required to wear vests at any other time if directed to do so by the I.C.
Non Vest Incidents (Exceptions to the Rule)
Several incident types may be encountered where the donning of a safety vest may actually increase risk of injury for fire department personnel or where wearing of the vests may in fact be otherwise impractical. Under these limited situations, the requirement for donning ANSI-compliant vests by personnel directly involved in hazard area “Hot Zone” activities is modified.
The exceptions for wearing a safety vest applies only to members directly involved in activities within an established “Hot Zone” and only when the Hot Zone is protected from the hazards of moving traffic by apparatus blocking, lane closures, etc.
The required ANSI-compliant safety vest need not be worn when a member is required to:
Don SCBA to work in close proximity to a source of heat such as during suppression of a vehicle fire.
Don hazardous materials personal protective equipment to avoid potential exposure to chemicals or other contaminants
Or when directly involved in a technical rescue incident such as extrication, high or low angle rope rescue, swift water rescue, etc. Appropriate PPE shall be worn.
All members on-scene performing duties or involved at activities other than those listed above are required to don ANSI compliant vests. I.C., pump operator, etc., would be typical of this type of activity.
When there is no longer a hazard from a fire, chemical or technical rescue activities, personnel involved in those activities are required to don a safety vest while on scene.
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