Color-blindness as a lab safety concern?

University of Maryland, College Park, materials science graduate student Patrick Stanley tries EnChroma glasses. Credit: C&EN

University of Maryland, College Park, materials science graduate student Patrick Stanley tries EnChroma glasses. Credit: C&EN

This week’s C&EN includes a Newscripts column about new eyeglasses for color-blind people that enhance color perception. I was struck by these comments by a materials science graduate student who tried the glasses:

“Primary colors seemed more their color,” [Patrick] Stanley reports of his time wearing the glasses. “Labels and boxes caught my attention more—and I guess the point of a hazardous label is to catch my attention.” He also could tell the difference between red and green LEDs and felt more adept at color-matching tasks such as tracing gas lines and reading graphs. “I found myself being quicker in making color assertions,” he says.

I’d never considered before whether color-blindness might be a lab safety concern. What do you think? Are there labs in which eyeglasses such as these might be helpful to ensure safety? (Combined with appropriate safety glasses or goggles, of course!)

Author: Jyllian Kemsley

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3 Comments

  1. Color blindness can lead to a wide variety of safety concerns in almost any lab. Asking about it should be standard practice. Many labs already provide special safety glasses for people who need normal eyeglasses. Providing these glasses should be a natural extension of that type of policy.

  2. Hi Jyllian
    As a Red-Green colour blind chemist I must comment that colour blind people do indeed see the warning labels and they do stand out. Dichroic vision is just different, NOT dangerous. In addition, colour blindness is most commonly a deficiency in colour perception not a complete lack. When I need to identify a colour exactly I ask someone with two X chromosomes or use a spectrometer.
    R. Reed

  3. I agree with Rob’s comment. I’m also a red-green color blind chemist and I don’t really see any safety problems in the lab because of it. I can see the warning labels fine. The rare times when I need assistance identifying a color I get someone to help me. That is rare, at least since performing titrations in quantitative analysis 20+ years ago.

    In my experience, the biggest problem for the color blind chemist is going to conferences and watching powerpoint slides use red and green as their primary colors on their presentations meaning I get nothing out of the figures.

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