Commentary Search


Safety Glasses--not just for work

  • Published
  • By Maj. Jeffrey A. Newsom
  • 436th Aerospace Medical Squadron
Now that the 101 Critical Days of Summer are around the corner, it is a great time to remind everyone about the importance of protecting their eyes. While outside working or just enjoying the summer sunshine, you should wear sunglasses with ultraviolet (UV) protection. Long-term exposure to UV rays can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration or skin cancer around the eyelids. UV protection is especially important working on the flight line or enjoying water sports because light reflects off the flat airfield surface or water increasing exposure to UV rays.

When choosing sunglasses, look for labels that clearly state the sunglasses block 99 to 100% of UV-A and UV-B rays and make sure to find a pair that is comfortable. If it is not comfortable, you won't want to wear it. Military members should keep regulations in mind for wearing sunglasses in uniform. For Air Force personnel, this can be found in AFI36-2903.

While most military members and DOD civilians know that they are required to follow OSHA regulations to wear personal protection equipment (PPE) at work, many fail to follow the same guidelines at home. According to a survey conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology in 2009, 44% of eye injuries occur at home. The majority of these injuries could have been prevented by using the same level of protection already in use at the workplace.

All approved safety glasses must meet the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87.1 requirements for impact resistance and carry a mark of "Z87" on the frame. PPE for other tasks such as welding or use of lasers follow additional guidelines. Your unit safety officer will know what level of protection is required for your specific occupation.

Participants in sports should also wear proper safety eyewear. According to the National Society to Prevent Blindness, baseball is the leading cause of sports-related eye injuries in 5- to 14-year-olds, while basketball is the leading cause in 15- to 24-year-olds.

Different sports require different levels of eye protection. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) establishes standards for sports eyewear. Approved sports eyewear will be labeled with one of the following standards:
       ·ASTM F803 - "Eye Protectors for Selected Sports" includes racket sports,            women'slacrosse, field hockey, basketball, baseball and soccer.
       ·ASTM F1776-01 - "Eye Protective Devices for Paintball Sports."
       ·ASTM F513-00 - "Eye and Face Protective Equipment for Hockey"

Remember that protective eyewear is only effective if it is used and regular glasses do not provide enough protection for playing sports. Wearing protective eyewear should become a habit when playing any sport, no matter the age of the participants. Proper wear will decrease the risk of eye injury.

What about the Military Combat Eye Protection (MCEP) ballistic glasses you received when you were deployed? Those actually exceed the ANSI Z87 requirements. 13% of injuries during Desert Storm involved the eyes, even though the eyes are less than 1% of the body surface area. The use of MCEP in OIF and OEF cut that rate to 9.5% and it continues to drop. MCEP glasses can be used for eye protection around the home as well.

Even if you are not deploying, you can still get MCEP at the Military Clothing and Sales or on the AAFES website. To make sure you are getting the right type, look for the green sticker that says "Authorized Protective Eyewear List (APEL) Approved." Some styles can also hold prescription inserts which can be ordered through the Dover AFB Optometry Clinic for active duty military.

Whether you are on the job, working in the yard, playing your favorite sport or just enjoying time outdoors this summer, make sure you think about protecting your eyes. According to Prevent Blindness America, thousands of eye accidents happen each day and 90 percent of these can be prevented by using appropriate safety eyewear. Remember, you only get one set of eyes. Protect them. Now, get out there and have a safe summer!