The value of orange

This morning on a Search and Rescue mailing list we recieved the following message:

FYI . . I have an defective orange jacket made by Blauer that I needed to replace, seems they are not making the jackets in orange any more? Below is the information that Blauer sent to me why orange is not longer available

In 2004, Orange will not be an ANSI certified color by OSHA. This means
that the uniform manufacturers have already done as we have and eliminated this color from most of their lines. REASON BEING THAT 17% OF THE POPULATION IS COLOR BLIND AND CANNOT SEE THE ORANGE COLOR.

Interesting, my dog's shabrack is orange, guess they will have to hear her coming? Most of my jackets are orange also. Will be interesting to see if they change hunters clothing???

The primary reference to standards about the design of clothing for safety of road and emergency workers seems to be ANSI standard 107-1999. According to the Reference Guide to Protective Clothing Systems for Public Safety 2003-2004 Edition(PDF) published by Blauer on their website with several references to the site. The 3M site has a document that discusses the use of the three allowed background colors for ANSI compliant garments. The three colors, florescent lime-yellow, fluorescent red-orange and fluorescent red all have applications. I have not found any references to the red-orange color going away or a new standard being published. As we are little more than a week away from 2004 it seems that many of the sites with information on the subject would have been updated by now. Indeed even Blauer's site still sells jackets in orange.

Blauer's document contains the graphic shown here that suggests florescent lime-yellow was identified as the most visible color by more than twice as many people surveyed at the Minnesota State Fair. 3M's guide points out that florescent orange-red and florescent red may be more difficult to distinguish during the fall when reds and oranges are prevalent in fall color. It also points to florescent lime-yellow blending in with yellow flowers.

The application of the studies and standards needs to be taken into account when considering their worth for a given purpose. The ANSI standards are written primarily for dealing with vehicles, roadsides and other transportation related settings. Search and rescue does not always fall into those same categories. Even the bright yellow(mango) and black of some ski patrol jackets that once stood out on ski slopes have faded into the sea of yellow and black jackets on the slopes.

It seems that anti-chameleon outerwear, something that changes to the opposite color of the background, will be the next great invention for outdoor professionals.