Vision Conservation and Readiness

Personal Protective Equipment - Eye Protection Overview

Last Updated: September 10, 2018
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The National Research Council has reported that:                                                                                                                                                                  "Injury is probably the most under-recognized major health problem facing the nation. "

Each year, it is estimated that over one million eye injuries occur in the United States with over 42 percent of the injuries occurring in the home.   Sports account for over 100,000 eye injuries with 42,000 having to seek treatment in an Emergency Room at an estimated cost of over $175-200 million.  Also, one third of sports injuries involve children.  For the workplace, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses injuries for 2016 reported 25,280 eye injuries from those reporting data, primarily from the private sector and state and local governments and resulting in workers being away from work for recovery for.   These injuries often result in one or more missed work days for recovery,  with a total of 11,352 days being reported in 2016 or roughly 45 work years total.  OSHA estimates that workplace eye injuries cost an estimated $300 million a year in lost productivity, medical treatment, and worker compensation.   The number of eye related injuries for active duty personnel for 2016 was 14,478 and 13,269 for 2017, down about 8%.  However, this is a total number and not just the number of eye injuries that occurred while working.

What is most important to understand is that more than 90% of these injuries can be prevented by always wearing the appropriate eye protection.   A study presented at the National Safety Council in 2007 found that nearly 60% of workers who experienced an eye injury were either wearing the wrong kind of eye protection or no protection at all.  OSHA requires that eye and face protection is provided whenever necessary to protect workers against the specific hazards that have been found during hazard assessments.    However, it is just as important to wear eye protection outside of the workplace when dealing with potential risks for eye injuries.  A recent study by the American Academy of Ophthalmology found that only 35 percent of people surveyed consistently wear their protective eyewear when at home and doing things such as working with hazardous chemicals, around flying debris, or around projectiles that could fly in the eyes unexpectedly.  For sports, the best way to prevent an injury is to wear properly fitting protective eyewear that meet American Standards for Testing and Materials' (ASTM) impact standards.  Finally, the long term effects from other factors such as exposure to sunlight and eye strain should be considered and, when possible, should also be protected against.  All of these topics, with the exception of eyestrain and sunlight which will be covered in a different section, will be discussed below in greater detail.  As always, however, if you have any questions: 

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Vision Conservation

Vision Conservation is a clear Department of Defense priority.   The purpose is to ensure that military, civilian and contract employees have the visual performance, optical devices and ocular health necessary to perform their assigned activities in a safe and efficient manner.

There are several eye protection standards which largely depend on the environment and risks faced by the end user.  Below is an overview of the applicable standards and requirements (e.g. MIL-SPEC, ASTM, ANSI, OSHA).

The OSHA requirements are:

     - Eye and face protection must be provided whenever necessary to protect against chemical, environmental, and radiological hazards or mechanical irritants;

     - Must conduct a workplace hazard assessment; and

     - Must provide adequate training for all workers requiring eye and face protection.

Eye and face protection must comply with ANSI Z87 and must, at a minimum, meet the following requirements:

     - Protection must provide adequate protection again the particular hazards for which they are designed;

     - The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses eye protection that provides side protection when there is a hazard from flying objects. Detachable side protectors (e.g. clip-on or slide-on side shields) meeting the pertinent requirements of this section are acceptable;

     - Be of safe design and construction for the work to be performed;

     - Be reasonably comfortable when worn under the designated conditions;

     - Fit snugly and not unduly interfere with the movements of the wearer;

     - Be capable of being disinfected;

     - Be easily cleanable; and

     - Be distinctly marked to facilitate identification of the manufacturer (The required markings are listed below).

OSHA states that use of PPE – considered the last line of defense against worker injury and illness – is acceptable when controls higher in the hierarchy don’t eliminate the hazard or are in development. Numerous types of PPE are available, depending on work conditions and the part of the body that might be susceptible to a hazard.  To assist in compliance with regulations and is the selection of eye and face protection, OSHA has a Eye and Face Protection eTool External Link  which includes a page on Selecting PPE for the Workplace External Link and OSHA Requirements External Linkwhich has information regarding the standards, training, PPE fitting and maintenance as well as information regarding the wearing of prescription lenses and contacts.

The ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2015 External LinkOccupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices standard sets forth criteria related to the general requirements, testing, permanent marking, selection, care, and use of protectors to minimize the occurrence and severity or prevention of injuries from such hazards as impact, non-ionizing radiation and liquid splash exposures in occupational and educational environments including, but not limited to, machinery operations, material welding and cutting, chemical handling, and assembly operations. Certain hazardous exposures are not covered in this standard such as: Blood borne pathogens, X-rays, high energy particulate radiation, microwaves, radio-frequency radiation lasers, masers, and sports and recreation.   An Overview External Link of the 2015 standard is available from the While the Standards prior to 2010 were organized by type of device, the 2010 and 2015 Standards focus on the hazards themselves and are organized by the nature of the hazard - impact, optical radiation, droplet and splash, dust and fine particles, and mist.  The intent is to encourage the users to evaluate the specific hazard during their hazard assessment and then select the appropriate protection.   When purchasing PPE it is strongly recommended that you purchase items that comply with the latest standards.

Military Combat Eye Protection

 MCEP helps preserve performance in both combat and training by reducing risks associated with exposure to hazards ranging from fragmenting munitions and other airborne debris to invisible hazards such as ultraviolet (UV) radiation.  Only eyewear that meets the stringent ballistic fragmentation testing (MED-PRF 32432) and well as ANSI Z87.1 can be approved to make that list. 

For more information regarding available military eye protection go to Personal Protection Equipment - Military Eye Protection.  For additional information regarding and to view the current QPL from PEO Soldier for eyewear protection, go to APEL External Link.  There is also a poster that is available for downloading at APEL Poster External Link.

Sports Eye Protection

Prevent Blindness External Link states that more than 25,000 people seek treatment for sport-related eye injuries each year and provides Tips External Linkfor the purchase of sports eye protection as well as a Fact Sheet External Link  regarding the recommended eye protection for some sports .  ASTM International is another standards development organization.  The Subcommittee F08.57 on Eye Safety for Sports External Link provides the recommended standards when considering eye protection for sports and lists all of the available standards for those having specific standards such as paintball, field hockey, women's lacrosse, racket sports and others.  In addition the ASTM F803-14 External Link standard covers a number of sports that do not have separate standards but are sports that are considered to have a potential for eye injuries such as baseball, soccer and others.  Remember to look for the appropriate ASTM label on the product for a specific sport prior to purchasing them.  Standard prescription glasses are NOT recommended for use in sports where eye protection is recommended or required.  Eyewear that is ANSI Z87 compliant is better but still is not preferred to sport specific eyewear that are ASTM compliant.

Note: The Tri-Service Vision Conservation and Readiness Program at APHC  does NOT recommend the use of protectors for racquet sports that do not have protective lenses.