Prevent Blindness, the nation’s oldest volunteer eye health and safety group, has declared March as Workplace Eye Wellness Month to provide employers and employees with free information on the best ways to keep vision healthy on the job. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each day, about 2,000 U.S. workers sustain a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment.
Common causes for eye injuries in the workplace are:
- Flying objects (bits of metal, glass)
- Harmful radiation
- Any combination of these or other hazards
The proper eye protection depends on the hazards in the workplace. For example, for those working in areas with particles, flying objects, or dust, employees must at least wear safety glasses with side protection (side shields). If working with chemicals, appropriate goggles should be always be worn. If working near hazardous radiation (welding, lasers, or fiber optics), special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shields, or helmets designed for that task should be worn.
In office settings, computer use combined with personal use of digital devices such as tablets and smartphones increases the risk of digital eye strain. Symptoms may include blurred vision, dry eyes or headaches. The Vision Council reports that more than 87 percent of individuals ages 18 to 39, more than 82 percent of individuals ages 40 to 59, and 76 percent of individuals ages 60 and up use digital devices for more than two hours per day. Blue light exposure received from digital screens is small compared to the amount of exposure from the sun. And yet, there is concern over the long-term effects of screen exposure because of the close proximity of the screens and the length of time spent looking at them.
Employers may download and distribute free fact sheets on workplace safety, including “Blue Light and Your Eyes,” at https://www.preventblindness.org/fact-sheets. “Keeping eyes healthy today actually saves on healthcare costs in the future,” said Hugh R. Parry, President, and CEO of Prevent Blindness. “We encourage everyone to talk with their employers about the best ways to keep their vision protected at work. And, make sure to talk to an eye care professional about the best eye protection for any activity.”