By Vision Center of Excellence
In this advanced technological age, we remain unable to replicate the gift of sight. Vision is a critical resource for everyone; and, yet, for many DoD personnel that resource has been lost or diminished because of an injury. In addition to combat-related eye injuries, injuries may also occur during military training exercises and when performing typical household and off-duty tasks.
Across the service branches, policies and guidelines recommend wearing task-specific eye protection to keep eye safety on the forefront. Service members have access to protective eye gear that is routinely validated against military requirements for ballistic fragmentation to provide the highest level of protection. Eye protection options are listed on the Authorized Protective Eyewear List (APEL), and can be reviewed at http://www.peosoldier.army.mil/equipment/eyewear/. Even with policies and the available resources in place, there remains a gap between awareness and adoption of best practice. Ninety percent of all on and off-duty eye injuries are preventable, if eye protection is consistently used.
Practitioners play a role in aiding adoption of vision saving practices. Annual exams offer a prime opportunity to remind patients that the single act of putting on eye protection could save their vision, and that it is vital to use eye protection while:
- On duty—Eye protection available from the APEL are validated against military requirements for ballistic fragmentation and therefore provide the highest level of impact protection available. Commanders at all levels should be especially encouraged to set the example for subordinates.
- In training—Wearing eye protection is a safety behavior learned by modeling, similar to wearing seat belts or helmets. Therefore, it is equally important to set an example and encourage the use of eye protection in training, so that it is ingrained as an essential part of battle dress.
- Around the house—Chores that produce flying debris, such as lawn mowing, raking, home improvements and car repairs, or using chemicals or cleaning solutions all involve a level of risk for the eyes; however, eye safety is rarely considered given that more than half of eye injuries happen at home. Job specific or job appropriate eye protection can help guard against the flying debris and airborne cleaning products.
- On the run—Flailing elbows and fast pitches make basketball and baseball two of the more hazardous recreational sports for eyes. Wearing the appropriate eye protection will provide a shield while playing sports.
The Vision Center of Excellence strongly encourages practitioners and leaders to spread the word about eye protection when engaging Service members at all levels. It is time that protecting the gift of sight becomes a priority. More information and resources on eye protection can be found on the Vision Center of Excellence website at vce.health.mil, as well as on social media at facebook.com/VisionCoE and twitter.com/VisionCoE.