Custom Construction Shirts: Safety Green vs Safety Orange

by John Amato

All construction projects are designed to be functional and serve their users’ practical needs. A great way to work on these projects is with equally functional work shirts.

Custom construction shirts promote your brand while also protecting your employees by increasing their visibility.

Most construction sites use either green or orange for their high visibility apparel. This isn’t by coincidence, as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) act mandates the use of these fluorescent colors to keep employees safe.

But how do you choose between these two colors? Both are easily noticeable to the eye and also comply with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) guidelines.

Well, the answer lies in the purpose of high-visibility clothing. Since the primary goal of high-visibility apparel is to increase visibility by conspicuity, the more striking color of the two should be selected.

This guide will make choosing either color easier by exploring:

  • The factors that affect the brightness of high-visibility shirts
  • ANSI requirements on high-visibility apparel for different work zones
  • Different work sites in construction and the best choice for each site

Let’s get started by learning the factors that affect the conspicuity of high visibility apparel.

1 - Sharp Contrast With Work Background

safety orange custom construction shirt

Contrast is the difference between the shirt color and the work background.

A color that has a sharp contrast with other objects in the vicinity is easily detectable. High visibility shirts achieve this by use of fluorescent fabrics.

The orange or green fabrics aren’t fluorescent on their own but are dyed to achieve that effect. This is done by coating fluorescent pigments on the outer surface of the clothing in the manufacturing process to make a fabric that’s in the visibility spectrum.

Once light hits the fabric, it emits the reactive fluorescent color back to the eyes, making it easily visible.

Before choosing between the two colors, you must consider the background of your work site.

While safety green is the more visible color of the two, contrast can tip the scale in safety orange’s favor

For example, on a building site surrounded by greenery, safety orange will sharply contrast with the background, making it more noticeable from a distance. Safety green can blend in with the foliage and the visibility of the moving workers can only be detected from a close distance.

On the other hand, green is more suitable for construction sites with complex backgrounds, such as heavy machinery and high-rising structures. Since OSHA requires that all machinery on a construction site is painted orange, green shirts will contrast highly with these objects, increasing the visibility of your workers.

green is more suitable for construction sites with complex backgrounds

2 - Easy Detection by the Human Eye

Gildan 5000 safety green construction shirt

Another factor that affects the conspicuity of a construction shirt is its brightness. The human eye responds best to brightly colored objects.

For high-visibility clothing, brightness is measured using a spectrophotometer in line with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) guidelines in ASTM e1164. The instrument passes light through a sample fabric, then divides it into the different wavelengths that are reflected and perceived by the eye.

The luminance measured is expressed as a percentage. The higher the luminance, the higher the visibility and detection of the color by the eye.

The ANSI-ISEA–107–2015 guidelines provide the minimum luminance factor for safety colors, as shown in the table below.

Safety Color Luminance Factor
Green 70%
Orange 40%
Red 25%

Safety green has the highest luminance since it has a wide spectrum of color between neon green and yellow. This makes it more conspicuous to the eye than safety orange.

At Jupmode, we refer to all colors in the fluorescent green to yellow spectrum as safety green. This doesn’t mean that all our safety green shirts are the same color. Choose a color for your custom construction shirt within that spectrum as long as it meets the minimum luminance required by ANSI.

Here are some of our best safety green shirts within the neon green to yellow color range.

Bayside 5040 blank safety green construction shirt Jerzees 29MP blank safety green construction shirt Next Level 6210 safety green shirt

3 - Easy Recognition by Observers

Recognition in hi-vis clothing refers to how someone interprets a color’s meaning when they see it.

Most people interpret different colors in their own way. Some say yellow is vibrant and stimulates them to work, while others associate blue with feelings of calmness and serenity. Cultural factors mostly condition the interpretation of color in the subconscious mind.

For custom construction shirts, the goal is to protect your employees from accidents that arise from moving vehicles or machinery. You ideally want a color that’s associated with caution or warning.

While safety green is the more visible color of the two, safety orange is largely associated with warning and caution. That’s because orange is widely used for:

  • Barrels 
  • Cones 
  • Road construction signs
  • Auto warning triangles

It’s also closely related to the color red, which is commonly recognized as a caution sign.

For this reason, safety orange shirts will provide better protection in workplaces outside general construction sites. Such work zones include:

  • Sidewalk maintenance
  • Highway road construction
  • Parking lots and driveways

4 - Effect of Dirt on Color Visibility

safety green and black construction hoodie

Construction workers are frequently exposed to dirt from dust and residue from oil and paint. What happens to the visibility of construction shirts when they’re exposed to dirt?

Safety green shirts may become brighter with dust but become dull with dirt, paint and oils. Safety orange shirts, on the other hand, become less visible when exposed to dirt and all other residue.

For high visibility at all times, ensure your workers wear clean safety apparel. Clean construction shirts are easily noticeable, even in low light conditions.

For OSHA compliance, you must also replace the shirts when they’re significantly discolored or worn out.

The quality of the fabric is one of the essential features to consider while picking a custom construction shirt. A high-quality fabric will give you value for your money since it doesn’t need frequent replacement.

Jupmode construction shirts are made in a cotton-polyester blend that’s durable and remains bright even after frequent washes.

“Very impressed by the speed and quality of my company's shirt orders. They got our order done in less than a week (70+ shirts).”
- Micheal Salisbury


5 - Additional Requirements on Reflective Properties

safety green construction shirt with reflective tape

A fluorescent fabric alone is sometimes not enough to increase the visibility of your workers.

ANSI provides guidelines for when high-visibility clothing should be paired with reflective tape. This improves visibility at night and in high-risk environments and ensures your workers are clearly seen.

The table below highlights the different classes of hi-vis clothing, their requirements, and the construction environments they’re best suited for.

Class Requirements Environment
1 Retro-reflective band on chest of at least 50 mm wide
  • Sidewalk maintenance
  • Parking lots and driveway repairs
2 Full or short sleeves with additional reflective bands on the waist to provide a better outline of the human shape
  • Highway road construction
  • Railway repairs or construction
  • Survey crews
3 Full sleeves and trousers with a reflective band on chest, waistline, and ankles to provide a full outline of human form
  • Work sites near highway traffic
  • General construction sites with high speed vehicular movements at night

Safety green and orange provide equal protection at night time when reflective bands are added on the fabrics. That’s because the reflective bands bounce back light from headlights even before the driver notices the color.

However, if the same clothing is worn during the day, contrast and recognition factors must be considered before the color choice is made.

Best Construction Shirt Color for Different Environments

Both safety green and safety orange construction shirts will boost the visibility of your staff in their workplaces.

However, factors such as the work background, luminance and recognition make safety green best suited for most environments.

The table below highlights different work zones in the construction industry and the best suited safety color for each.

Environment Safety Green Safety Orange
General building site
Parkings and driveways
Roads and highways
Interior renovations
Foundations and excavation works

Protect and Promote Your Company With Customized Construction Shirts

Construction shirts are functional items of clothing that provide comfort for your workers while keeping them safe.

Adding your company’s logo and name to safety shirts is a great way to promote brand awareness.

Jupmode specializes in creating safety-compliant apparel for contractors to protect employees from accidents on construction sites. Our state-of-the-art screen printing, embroidery, and heat transfer machinery makes the best custom work gear for your staff, including:

  • Crew sweatshirts
  • Hoodies
  • Safety vests
  • Hats 
  • Beanies

Our vast experience in creating custom work clothing for companies has earned us a reputation as dependable, trustworthy, and easy to work with for custom safety apparel.

Here’s what one of our customers had to say:

“Phenomenal experience buying a run of 65 t-shirts. Very fast responses from the account manager, great pricing, and fast production. Finished product is of excellent quality.”
- Joe M

Get started with your custom construction shirts by filling out the form on this page. You can also contact us for help with any questions you may have.

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