Association Seeks to Raise Awareness About Eye Injuries, Strain
According to the American Optometric Association, visual discomfort, eye strain and eye injuries in the workplace cost billions in lost productivity each year.
Research indicates that 2,000 workers each day in the U.S. sustain job-related eye injuries requiring medical treatment. However, according to safety experts and optometrists, 90 percent of all eye and vision injuries could be prevented with simple safety strategies such as wearing properly designed and fitted protective eyewear.
"Healthy vision is critical to successfully completing job-related tasks," said James Sheedy, director of the Vision Ergonomics Laboratory at Pacific University in Oregon. "And while most people think of construction or manufacturing as high-risk occupations where eye injuries are prevalent, even jobs requiring 'smart phones,' laptops and desktop computers can cause vision problems if not used properly."
Eye protection lacking. Many industries require employees to wear protective eyewear to reduce the risk of eye injuries. According to the AOA, with proper eye protection, thousands of injuries could be prevented. Yet the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in approximately 60 percent of eye injury cases, workers failed to wear proper protective eyewear.
"Eye safety -- whether at home or in the workplace -- is proven to prevent vision loss," Sheedy said. "The two main reasons workers experience eye injuries are either because they are not wearing eye protection or they are wearing the wrong kind of protection for the job."
The AOA recommended four key elements to protect employees from eye-related injuries:
- Know the eye safety dangers. Conduct a thorough job analysis of each task performed at your workplace to identify all possible eye hazards.
- Eliminate hazards before starting work. In manufacturing, this includes using machine guards, work screens or other engineering controls. With regard to computer tasks, employers should target direct light sources, such as windows and overhead lights, that cause reflected light to shine on computer monitors, resulting in eye strain and fatigue. To eliminate overhead glare, place the face of the computer display at right angles to windows and light sources. Position task lighting so the light does not reflect on the screen. In addition, use blinds or drapes on windows to help reduce glare. Glare filters that attach directly to the surface of the monitor can also be beneficial.
- Provide the proper eye protection. It is critical to make sure the protective equipment is correctly fitted. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, devices with adjustable features should be fitted on an individual basis to provide a comfortable fit that maintains the device in the proper position. Eye protection from dust and chemical splash should form a protective seal when fitted properly.
- Keep eye protection in good condition. Make sure employees know that if their eye protection is damaged, they should report it immediately to their supervisor. Have plenty of replacements on hand.
Watch PDA use.
According to a survey by the AOA, nearly half of all Americans (46 percent) spend five or more hours per day using a computer or a personal digital assistant, such as a smart phone. Prolonged use of these handheld electronic devices may lead to symptoms of computer vision syndrome, such as eye strain, dry eyes, headaches, fatigue, blurred vision and loss of focus, as well as musculoskeletal issues.
Sheedy said that in the digital era, no one expects employees to simply stop using these devices. However, small steps can make big changes to ease vision strain, he said. The AOA recommended employers remind workers to:
- Give it a rest. Remember the 20-20-20 rule. At least every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away.
- Size up. Smaller screens on handheld devices usually favor tiny type that challenges your vision. Sheedy recommended employees increase the font size instead of bringing the screen closer to the eyes.
- Sharpen up. Better resolution offers greater clarity and more comfort. Adjust the brightness of the screen to a comfortable intensity.
- Reduce glare. Handheld devices present challenges in various lighting conditions. When possible, try to make sure lighting is not directly behind the head or in front.
Read more at the WORKERSCOMP ForumTM homepage.
March 29, 2010
Copyright 2010© LRP Publications