Safety in Being Seen
Reflective gear is standard, yet vitally important on job sites
By Matt Nevala
Patrick, a Tlingit Traffic Control Professionals worker who has been working on the Seward Highway Rockfall Mitigation project since it began in August 2020, has become a known character among Alaska drivers, who refer to him as the “Awesome Flagger” for his dynamic approach to capturing drivers’ attention and keeping the traveling public safe as they go through the work zone.

Photo provided by Tlingit Traffic Control Professionals LLC.


he inherent danger of and necessity to safely work near traffic and on construction sites is universal.

“It’s all the same whether you’re on a cul-de-sac, in a town’s busy neighborhood, or on a twenty-mile dirt stretch of road in a rural area,” says Workzone Safety Supply office manager Aaron Petersen.

No matter the job, high-visibility garments ensure that drivers traveling through a work zone and equipment operators on a job site can see workers and be mindful of their safety.

“People are so distracted—to me, the most important thing is to be seen,” says Lisa Keane of Tlingit Traffic Control Professionals, LLC of Palmer. “Whatever you can do to stand out.”

According to Petersen, Alaska construction workers look pretty similar to construction and traffic workers in other states, specifically flaggers on those job sites. Look for them in either full or sleeveless vests and reflective pants.

In the last dozen or so years, it has become more of the norm to see workers geared out in lime green/fluorescent yellow clothing instead of orange safety gear.

“[Those colors] help people stand out from the orange of cones and other equipment,” Petersen says.

And there are other innovations to safety gear to reduce accidents and injury. Workzone touts a fairly new line of reflective gear from the brand Nite Beams: high-visibility safety vests that include rechargeable LED lighting. LEDs are visible up to a quarter-mile away when it’s dark, giving even more warning to motorists and other workers. The lights are rechargeable and can provide constant light for up to ten hours.

Flaggers Must Be Confident
Stacey Coy of Northern Dame Construction, LLC in Wasilla teaches a flagging course for new hires. A full section is dedicated to informing workers about needed gear.

“Whatever it is you buy as a worker, you have to be ready to be insulated,” Coy says. “Maybe I’ll have to put a sweatshirt on under this? Whatever it takes. There’s a lot that goes into the job and educating people on what they actually need to wear.

“When you’re out on the road, it’s all about those reflective stripes and where they’re located on the body,” she adds.

lighting on high-visibility wear
The new trend toward lighting on high-visibility wear helps drivers see construction workers and flaggers more quickly in low-light conditions.
Reflective stripes work shirts
Reflective stripes are a relatively recent addition to the classic safety orange and high-visibility green t-shirts. The shirts remain comfortable enough for summer wear but promote visibility and safety on the job site.

Photos provided by Workzone Safety Supply.

Coy says confidence is one of the most important traits of a successful flagger.

“You have to be able to command your space and the traffic around you,” she says. “It’s someone who is mature. It’s all basically about your presence.”

The industry sometimes allows for individuality. Coy says Alaska Industrial Hardware offers a line of reflective sweatshirts with mountain scenes and other design items on them.

“They’re themed—the American flag, things like that,” she says. “It helps individualize a person while still offering the reflective needs for being out there on the road.”

Safety First for Every Moose
There are a multitude of distractions vying for drivers’ attention in Alaska: the beautiful scenery wherever one looks, not to mention the exciting, unpredictable, and irresistible wildlife.

“People are looking for moose when driving out on the highways, and they kind of blend in,” Keane says.

Ungulates, humans—everyone needs to be careful. We can’t assume wild animals will get in reflective gear any time soon.

Matt Nevala is a freelance writer and veteran journalist who lives in Anchorage. He writes for the Alaska Sports Report (@AKSportsReport). Find him on social media at @MNevala9.