Airsoft Safety, Part 1

Airsoft History

Airsoft Safety

Proper eye protection is critical when participating in Airsoft competitions.

Airsoft as we know it today essentially began in Japan in the 1980s. Over time, and with the help of the Internet, Airsoft grew to become not only a popular sport but also a key training tool for the police and military.

What began as another way to practice target shooting has grown into competitions where score is kept and people get shot. Many people enjoy Airsoft as a way to act out strategy discovered in video games. Airsoft offers an outlet for individuals wanting real-life action in a non-lethal atmosphere.

This same leisure activity also provides a safe environment for tactical simulation exercises by the military & police where they can hone skills, strategies and awareness. Guns look & feel like real guns that shoot bullets, allowing for a realistic way to train military personnel and police officers.

(Note: Check out The History of Airsoft for more details on the games origin and growth.)

Safety Concerns

Many people do not consider Airsoft guns to be toys and instead call them “high detailed firearm simulations.” They insist on this nomenclature because the guns fire plastic BBs at muzzle velocities of 100-400FPS, enough to severely injure an eye, chip a tooth and hurt the skin.

Even though Airsoft is considered non-lethal because of the BBs’ inability to pierce skin and damage internal organs doesn’t mean they are absent of safety issues. Let’s explore those issues along with some solutions.

Eye Injuries

While Airsoft BBs may not be life-threatening, they can seriously damage eyes. In fact, eye damage is the number one danger from Airsoft guns. Damage that unfortunately sometimes results in permanent blindness.

The Center for Disease Control reports that more than 19,000 people were treated for eye injuries caused by guns that don’t use gun powder, such as Airsoft guns. Of those treated, 71% were under 20 years old.

Because of the potential for eye damage, anyone using Airsoft guns should use eye protection, even when shooting at targets. Proper eye protection can prevent serious eye damage whether from a direct shot to the face or from a BB ricocheting.

Airsoft Eye Protection

Wrap around eye protection is crucial. With so many players on the field, BBs will be flying from all directions.

The best eye and face protection for Airsoft users ranges from ballistic-rated safety goggles to full face masks. At a minimum, eye protection should wrap around sides of the eyes to protect from ricocheting BBs.

Other Injuries

While not usually penetrating the skin, Airsoft BBs can also cause painful welts and occasionally bleeding when they strike skin. For this reason, covering skin with loose clothing is a good idea. Many individuals even wear battle fatigues when playing Airsoft.

Airsoft BBs also travel fast enough to chip a tooth. Many Airsoft experts recommend wearing face masks to protect the entire face from the pellets.

Additional Considerations

While eye, face and skin protection will prevent the majority of safety issues that arise from Airsoft guns, a few additional – but significant – concerns exist that are addressed in Airsoft Safety, Part 2. The second installment of Airsoft Safety will also review the basic rules of Airsoft safety.

Hearing Safety

DeWalt Interceptor Folding Earmuff

DeWalt Interceptor Folding Earmuff

Industrial machinery. Heavy construction equipment. Power tools. Aircrafts. Gunfire. Motorcycles. Race tracks. Dental drills. Sporting events. Fireworks. Rock concerts. Marching bands. Yard equipment.

All involve people. All involve loud noise. And, potentially, all contribute to hearing loss.

While a single event – like a firecracker or rock concert – can lead to ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and hearing loss, repeated exposure to loud noises are more likely to lead to permanent hearing loss.

Hearing loss affects 1 in 10 Americans and is mostly age-related and unpreventable. However, it can also be caused by the cumulative effects of excessive noise exposure, which IS PREVENTABLE.

The workplace often presents significant potential for hearing loss. OSHA offers the following regarding hearing safety in the workplace:

  • Approximately 30 million people in the United States are exposed to hazardous noise.
  • Noise-related hearing loss is one of the most prevalent work-related health concerns and has been for 25 years.
  • Thousands of workers suffer yearly from hearing loss due to workplace noise.

And that’s in addition to the individuals suffering hearing loss from noise encountered outside of work.

How Ears are Damaged

According to Noise & Hearing Protection, “When noise is too loud, it begins to kill the nerve endings in the inner ear. Prolonged exposure to loud noise destroys nerve endings. As the number of nerve endings decreases, so does your hearing. There is no way to restore life to dead nerve endings; the damage is permanent. The longer you are exposed to a loud noise, the more damaging it may be. Also, the closer you are to the source of intense noise, the more damaging it is.”

In other words, ears are damaged over time, and damage depends on amount, length and intensity of exposure to noise.

Identifying Hearing Loss & Its Causes

Because hearing loss is painless and gradual, you might not notice it. So how can you tell?

  1. You might notice a ringing or other sound in your ear (tinnitus)
  2. You may have trouble understanding what people say.
  3. People may seem to be mumbling, especially when surrounded by other noise.
  4. Speech or music sounds muffled when you leave a noisy situation but fairly clear the next morning.

Protect Your Hearing

Obviously, noise cannot be completely eliminated. But, there are some simple approaches to reduce the risk of cumulative hearing loss.

  1. Wear earplugs and/or earmuffs. Wear hearing protection when working in an excessively noisy environment, when using power tools and lawn equipment, when firing a gun, and when riding a motorcycle or snowmobile.
  2. Be sure to choose the right kind of hearing protection.Combating Common Objections to Hearing Protection wear says that “the right kind of hearing protection brings noise levels to a point where they won’t cause damage but necessary sounds like conversations can still be heard.”
  3. Wear hearing protection consistently. Finding the right size and type of gear is important to increase the chance consistency.
  4. Turn down the sound. Decrease volume when possible (radio, television, etc.).
  5. Give your ears a break. If you’ve just vacuumed, wait a while before mowing the lawn.
  6. Enjoy silence. Give your ears regular breaks not just from loud noise but from any significant noise. Noise can not only affect your hearing; Noise and Hearing Protection notes that it can have a significant impact on your overall health too.
  7. Increase your awareness of noise exposure. Think about how much noise enters your day, and reduce its affects by incorporating the above tips.

How do you know if a noise is too loud? Common sense mostly, but use your arms if you’re not sure. If someone is standing at arm’s length away and you have to shout to make yourself heard, then the noise around you is probably damaging your ears.

Healthy Hearing explains that protecting yourself from hearing loss needs the same approach as protecting your skin from sun damage. They say to “remember, hearing loss is based on the cumulative effect of loud noise throughout a lifetime so, like wearing sunscreen and staying in the shade, wear ear plugs when doing yard work or whenever you know you’re going to be exposed to the roar of a riding mower for more than a few minutes.”

Sun Safety: Special Considerations & Additional Thoughts

sunburnedThe article Sun Safety: What to Do Before, During & After Sun Exposure provided tips for enjoying the sun and keeping protected from its harmful rays at the same time. Today’s post provides information regarding unique situations and elements to consider for complete sun safety.

Special Considerations

Various factors influence the severity of sun damage. Be sure to keep the following special considerations in mind with regard to sun exposure.

AGEWhile everyone needs to use caution with sun exposure, children and the elderly need additional consideration.

Children and the elderly need to stay covered as much as possible and to consistently wear sunscreen.

SKINFirst consider skin complexion. According to the American Cancer Society, while any skin shade can be damaged by the sun, individuals with lighter skin are especially at risk.

Other factors relating to the skin that increase the possibility of severe sun damage and cancer include:

  • Having had skin cancer previously
  • Having a family history of skin cancer
  • Having lots of moles, having freckles and burning before tanning.

Protection in these situations is the same as with the elderly and children, cover up and wear sunscreen.

INSECT REPELLENTS AND MAKEUPBoth can decrease the effectiveness of sunscreen. Experts at the American Cancer Society recommend putting sunscreen on before applying makeup and/or insect repellent. Sunscreen needs to be right next to the skin to be most effective.

In addition, insect repellent can reduce the SPF of sunscreen by up to 1/3, so increase the SPF and reapply sunscreen more often when pairing with insect repellent.

LOCATION Because the sun is stronger near the equator, getting sunburned happens more quickly. Also, the sun is more intense in high altitudes with thinner air and thinner cloud cover. So don’t forget to reapply sunscreen often and to wear a higher SPF in warmer and higher locations.

Additional Thoughts

Some less-thought-of aspects regarding sun exposure involve the UV Index, Vitamin D and alternative tanning methods.

UV INDEX According to the US EPA, “the UV index provides important information to help you plan your outdoor activities in ways to prevent sun overexposure.” It helps know when to avoid being in the sun and when being outside is safer. The National Weather Service and EPA issues the UV Index forecast daily to help plan outdoor activities.

VITAMIN D Most people realize we get Vitamin D from being in the sun. However, some sources believe that getting Vitamin D safely means getting it “from your diet or vitamin supplements rather than from sun exposure.” Other sources, such as The Archives of Internal Medicine, state that, “summer is a great time to stock up on the nutrient.” And most people will admit that being in the sun for a little bit each day helps elevate mood, which Vitamin D is noted to be associated with doing. If you seek sun exposure to increase Vitamin D levels, do so minimally.

ALTERNATIVE TANNINGThe American Cancer Society notes that while tanning lotions and pills claim to give a tan without sun exposure, users should proceed with caution. Some may be safe and effective, others may not work, and still others could be harmful. Do your research on products before using.

With certainty, though, all scientific sources indicate the danger of tanning beds. The EPA states that everyone should avoid tanning beds because “UV light from tanning beds… causes skin cancer and wrinkling.” In addition, the American Cancer Society reports that “people who use tanning beds are more likely to develop melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, than never users, according to a new study from the University of Minnesota.”

Combine the tips given in Sun Safety: What to Do Before, During & After Sun Exposure with the special considerations and additional thoughts in this article to ensure receiving the best possible protection against the sun’s harmful rays.