Paintball safety alerts

An estimated 10 million people in the U.S. participate annually in paintball—a popular sport for many camps. Historically at Markel, paintball has few injuries; but unfortunately those that have been reported are severe eye injuries.

A study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology found that the majority of paintball eye injuries occurred in a non-recreation, uncontrolled setting. Many were quite severe—including rupture of the eyeball in 28 percent of the patients and a detached retina in 19 percent. Surgery was required in 81 percent of the patients. Eventual removal of the eyeball was required in 22 percent. Near-normal vision was restored to only 36 percent of patients.

Players are sometimes unwittingly at risk when their goggles fog up, or a paintball splashes on their face shield, and they remove their eye-wear. The injuries reported to Markel occurred when active players took off their glasses to clean them or when players on the sidelines began horsing around. When left unprotected, the eyes are subject to impact from paintballs traveling at 100-400 feet per second.

At least two fatalities have occurred related to unscrewing the CO2 cylinder valve from the paintball gun, thereby turning the cylinder into a lethal rocket.

Keep these tips in mind to increase safety during paintball games for your camp:
  • Use safety glasses specifically approved for paintball. Never use goggles with a cracked lens. Be sure to only use recommended goggle cleaning sprays, or you could weaken the lens.
  • Check the manufacturer’s safety information about lens replacement which could be as short as every six months, even when the lens is still in good condition.
  • It’s a good practice to always wear goggles, even in the chronograph area or anywhere near the playing field.
  • It is imperative to have referees present who will immediately remove players from the field who take off their eye protection or violate safety rules.
  • Barrel socks or plugs should not be removed until 10 seconds before play and should be put back on immediately after a participant is out of play.
  • It is essential to teach players that the paintball gun should always be considered as loaded.
  • Even if the CO2 tank has been removed, the paintball gun may still have a charge.
  • Find out if your camp is zoned by the county to permit paintball.
  • Markers should be shooting (chronoed) under 300 feet per second.
  • Always be careful when unscrewing a tank from a gun. If the brass fitting isn’t moving, stop.
  • Make sure any tank you are using has the proper hydro test date. Keep markers and tanks out of direct sunlight when not playing.
  • Do not permit participants to set up “booby traps.”
  • Post, review, and enforce the rules and boundaries of the contest.
  • Lock up the paintball guns when not in use, and store the ammunition and CO2 tanks separately from the guns.

The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments. Please contact us or your attorney if you have any questions.

For safety or risk management questions or suggestions, please contact Markel.

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