By Tri-service Vision Conservation and Readiness Division, U.S. Army Public Health Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MarylandMarch 6, 2019
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 6, 2019) - Eyesight is a critical factor that enables us to successfully perform mission tasks during deployments, training or maintenance. The Military Combat Eye Protection (MCEP) Program provides the means to protect our warfighters' eyesight.
Your eyesight is at stake
Although they make up less than 1 percent of the body's surface, our eyes are disproportionately injured when unprotected. Something as simple as sand blowing in your eyes can take you out of the fight temporarily, while shrapnel from improvised explosive devices and other blast effects to the eyes can make you combat ineffective for a much longer duration and leave you blinded for life. The simple act of putting a transparent impact-resistant shield between your eyes and what's coming at them can make all the difference in the world and prevent or limit the severity of 90 percent of eye injuries. You wouldn't go into the fight without body armor and a helmet, so be sure to use your MCEP as well.
World-class eye armor
All safety eyewear is not the same. The Army's Program Executive Office - Soldier certifies all MCEP items to meet or exceed the American National Standards Institute Z87 safety eyewear standard and U.S. military ballistic fragmentation standards, which provides five to seven times greater ballistic fragmentation protection for the eyes than standard Z87-approved eyewear. You need eyewear that has been proven to meet ballistic fragmentation standards. MCEP items meet or exceed these standards, and MCEP-approved eyewear is authorized for use in deployments and military training for ground troops.
The APEL logo and stamp
All MCEP-approved eyewear can be found on the Authorized Protective Eyewear List (APEL). The distinctive neon green APEL logo is required to be on all MCEP packaging. In addition, since June 2011, all new MCEP eyewear has the APEL name stamped, printed, embossed or stitched on the left temple or strap. This makes it easy to identify approved eyewear. APEL approval certifies that eyewear has been tested to meet the standard you need to protect your eyes while performing your mission. While some non-APEL eyewear may meet this standard, most of it does not. You have no way to know, so why risk your eyes and your sight? Use only APEL eyewear for your deployments, training and eye-hazardous military duties.
If you don't need glasses to see well, you can use any MCEP device. Warfighters who need glasses require an MCEP device with an approved prescription insert. MCEP devices are tested with prescription inserts to meet the same ballistic fragmentation protection standards. Inserts can be ordered through your local military eye clinic. If you are at an approved deployed location, you can re-order glasses and inserts using G-eyes at https://srtsweb.amedd.army.mil/WebForms/GEyes/Forms/GEyesHomePage.aspx .
Since 2014, all MCEP devices use a single, universal insert. This means you don't have to order a new insert if you decide to change to a different MCEP model. Only approved MCEP prescription inserts can be used in MCEP eyewear. Using non-approved inserts or taping/gluing lenses into the eyewear puts you at significant risk of an eye injury.
Purchase from approved sources
If you buy your own MCEP device, you should purchase it from military clothing sales stores only. In the Army, MCEP is issued in basic training, at central issuing facilities and can be requisitioned though standard supply channels. In current deployments, MCEP is also issued through the rapid fielding initiative.
Use MCEP on and off duty
MCEP provides eye protection both on and off duty.
On duty. While deployed, the rule of thumb is, "Any time your helmet is on, your MCEP should be on." The Tri-Service Vision Conservation and Readiness Program advocates taking that a step further when deployed: "Any time you are outdoors, your MCEP should be on." Furthermore, beyond deployment, the train-as-you-fight concept applies. MCEP should be used in all training, just like it would during actual combat or deployment.
Off duty. Many warfighters do not realize the danger of an eye injury doesn't end when they leave their deployment or training area. Many activities that military members do routinely - grounds-keeping, maintenance and shop work - all present significant potential for eye injury. These activities occur both at work and home. Common home tasks like lawn mowing, weed whacking, auto maintenance and working with power tools are some of the most common sources for eye injuries in U.S. households. In fact, according to an analysis of emergency department visits for eye injuries, home is where 44.6 percent of serious eye injuries now occur, with work-related injuries at 20.3 percent.
Meeting safety needs
With the exception of racket sports and paintball, which have specific protective eyewear requirements specified by ASTM International, and some work activities like welding, MCEP eyewear meets the eye protection needs for most other eye hazards. They are even available with laser protection when missions require it. All MCEP lenses (even the clear lenses) also provide at least 99.9% UV protection for an added health benefit.
The Tri-Service Vision Conservation and Readiness Program strongly encourages warfighters to use their MCEP for non-combat, non-deployment and non-training activities where eye hazards exist. That includes home and work. Remember, an eye injury at home is just as much of a threat to your vision as one that happens in the field. Protect the sight to fight!
Did You Know?
The main difference between safety glasses and regular glasses is their resistance to impact. The American National Standards Institute, which sets standards for safety glasses, requires them to withstand the impact of a quarter-inch steel ball traveling 150 feet per second. You can't depend on prescription glasses for that kind of protection. Frames stamped with the imprint "Z87" meet stringent standards for strength and heat resistance. Program Executive Office Soldier has an approved list of eye protection for Soldier use at http://www.peosoldier.army.mil/equipment/eyewear.
March is recognized as Workplace Eye Wellness Month in an effort to educate workers on how to protect their vision while on the job.
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