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Eye Protection

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Carla Ocampo/Released


Over 90% of eye injuries are preventable IF you…

Shield your eyes by wearing appropriate protective eyewear while on- and off-duty, and
Make sure that the eyewear is listed on the Authorized Protective Eyewear List (APEL), approved by the Department of Defense.

The second most common injury resulting from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) is serious eye trauma. However, eye safety is not just a combat concern. Accidents happen during standard duty activities, during sports or while performing chores around the house. Proactive eye safety serves you on-duty and off.

On-Duty: Wear appropriate safety eyewear or DoD-approved APEL eye protection if you are…

  • In training or as required by regulations, directives, and orders
  • Doing work or working around those producing particles, slivers or flying debris
  • Spending time in an area with exposure to Ultraviolet Light (UV)

Off-Duty: Remember to wear APEL eye protection when…

  • Doing chores that potentially produce slivers, particles, or flying debris (e.g., hammering, grinding, shop work, lawn and garden work)
  • Playing sports (e.g., basketball, skiing, hunting, racquetball, etc.)
  • Riding a bicycle or motorcycle
  • Working with bungee cords
  • Using household cleaning products or other chemicals
Photo by Company C, Task Force 2-1

Why APEL and not just any available eye gear?

Not all glasses and goggles are made to the same standards. Those that may look stylish may only be an accessory and offer little protection.

Learn more about APEL options here

APEL-approved eyewear is validated against military requirements for ballistic fragmentation and offers hazard protection from particles, slivers and debris, and therefore provides the highest level of impact protection. They are tested every two years to ensure maintenance of safety standards.

Other products, including those listed as Industrial Eyewear Impact Standard compliant or military approved, MAY NOT provide the highest level of protection. When resistant glasses are recommended, APEL is the highest standard of protection due to their ballistic grade. Make sure that the eyewear has the "APEL" logo on the frame to assure the highest degree of eye protection on the market. Friends and family members who wish to purchase eyewear for you should also look for the "APEL" logo.

How do I order or replace my eye-pro?

To order or replace your eye protection, reach to your frontline leadership.
Front line leadership will provide you with the proper link and ordering code required to order a new pair of DoD-approved APEL eye-pro, limited to one pair a month. Your unit can also place bulk orders should that be more convenient. It takes about a week to arrive, so plan ahead to make sure you have access to safe eye gear at all times.


Do not patch or put pressure on any kind of eye injury.
Instead, shield the eye to protect it from further injury: use or create a rigid eye-shield that makes a dome over the wound and shields against further damage until proper care can be provided to the injury.

Did you know that applying pressure to an injured eye can actually cause additional harm to the eye?

Unlike traditional injuries where pressure helps control the injury, pressure on the eye can intensify damage and cause potentially irreversible damage to sight. The best way to treat an injured eye is to apply a rigid eye-shield to protect the eye until a medical physician can attend to it. Remember:

Never patch or apply a pressure dressing to an unshielded eye.
Be aware that "head" dressings and "face" dressings will often cover the eye—don't let it unless you've shielded the eye first.
Don't put anything between the shield and the eye.

Eye Patch

What is a rigid eye-shield?

Rigid eye-shields act as a barrier to pressure and additional environmental hazards (e.g., dust, debris, smoke), and protect the eye by providing a safe enclosure until additional medical attention is available.

If a rigid eye-shield is not readily available, use the intact (or slightly damaged) eye protection goggles or glasses as a barrier. This enclosure helps prevent any undue pressure or further damage to the eye.
Be sure to always protect the eye with a rigid eye-shield prior to wrapping and make sure that nothing goes between the shield and the eye.

Where can I find a rigid eye-shield?

Eye shields will soon be available in all Individual and Joint First Aid Kits. If you do not have access to rigid eye-shields, contact your leadership for information on how to order and use them safely. Check out our factsheet for tips on making a rigid eye shield and more injury response practices.

Eye Injury Response Tips

Why is this important to me? I'm not a medic.

Time and time again the first responder to a medical emergency is a fellow Service member or bystander who is not medically-trained. You may be on-site before anyone else and will have the ability to help preserve your buddy's vision by knowing the proper injury response procedure. Remember, you may think you’re treating a face or head wound, but an eye injury may be a part of it. SHIELD before you wrap.