Benefits and Compensation

Eyecare at Work: The Eyes are the Windows to Employees’ Health

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 20,000 work-related ocular injuries occur annually. Technology has taken over our modern professional lives in a way that has never been seen before. Indeed, we lead a digitally powered lifestyle as we juggle screen time between work and home. Now more than ever, eye care has become a fundamental right for every employee in any work environment.

Common Vision-Related Issues in the Workplace

Staring at a screen for 7+ hours daily does not come without consequences such as eye fatigue and vision changes. Vision-related issues affect not only the individual but also the company or the organization itself.

Vision Impact Institute, a nonprofit organization advocating for eye care, reports that the global economy is losing an estimated $272 billion from uncorrected vision problems that hinder employees’ productivity and performance. Here are common vision-related issues that may affect your employees:

Eye Fatigue

People suffer eye fatigue after intensely staring at something, particularly a bright screen, for an extended time. It is a common condition resulting from a strain on the eye muscles and causes tired, dry, or burning eyes. 

Dry Eye Syndrome

This is a common condition caused by a lack of adequate hydration in the eyes, which results from either decreased tear production or increased tear evaporation. While dry eye syndrome has many causes, staring at a screen for a prolonged time without blinking can result in increased tear evaporation and thus cause dry eye syndrome over time.

Blurred Vision

Blurred vision can have numerous causes. However, in a work setting involving long hours in front of a computer screen, this can result from untreated or uncorrected vision problems such as refractive errors (near-sightedness or far-sightedness) and might deteriorate without proper treatment.

Headaches or Migraines

Eye strain is one of the numerous causes of headaches or migraines. Any eye-related issue can trigger a headache or a migraine attack. Adjusting screen time or opting for a healthier digital exposure time can prevent eye strain, preventing or limiting potential headaches or migraines.

Work-Related Eye Injuries

Work-RISQS, a data-collection tool developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), reports that approximately 118,000 U.S. workers visited the ER in 2019 for work-related nonfatal emergency eye injuries.

Without proper protective eyewear, our eyes are exposed to different hazards such as chemicals, shards of metal, gases, acids, etc., which may result in serious injury or even permanent vision loss.

To promote eye care and eye protection at the workplace as an employer and an employee, here are some useful tips to keep in mind:

Avoid Sitting Too Close to the Computer Screen

It might seem like peering into your screen is boosting your focus, but it is only causing eye strain. The ideal distance between the viewer and the monitor depends on screen size. For standard-size monitors, sit at an arm’s length (about 2 feet) from the monitor.

Keep in mind that maintaining this distance alone is not a cure-all for existing eye problems or a preventive measure for potential issues but is merely one of the factors for eye protection, as we will see in the following chapters.

Adjust Computer Display Settings

The display settings depend on your monitor’s type or specifications. However, a few options apply to every screen and can help you avoid eye strain. First, ensure the computer’s brightness and contrast are well adjusted depending on surrounding lighting.

For example, you would increase the brightness in dim settings and vice versa. Second, increase the screen’s resolution, as some images may appear blurry if the resolution is low, and use bigger fonts to prevent squinting and therefore further eye strain.

Install Screen Filters

The average office worker spends around 1,700 hours every year in front of a computer screen. Blue light emitting from computer screens may cause retinal damage in the long run, especially if your eyes are constantly exposed to blue light without a filter or protection.

That is why it is important to use a blue light screen filter to reduce the amount of exposure to blue light and prevent potential eye strain and headaches. There are various types of filters on the market with different price points.

Computer Glasses and Antireflective Lenses

Specialized manufacturers in eyewear developed blue light-blocking glasses that are coated or tinted with materials that limit the potential risks of prolonged exposure to blue light. There are also antireflective lenses that are coated with special antiglare coatings that prevent light reflections on the lenses.

Blue light-blocking glasses reduce eye strain, and even wearing glasses instead of contacts is recommended to prevent eye dryness if you spend lots of working hours in front of your monitor.

Provide Proper Office Lighting

Poor room lighting does affect not only eyesight but also performance and productivity. Although we rarely get to choose our preferred working station, a few adjustments can be made to enhance office lighting.

Go for places with natural sunlight; if that is not possible, set your workstation near a well-lit corner. Either way, avoid positioning your desk against the light source, as it causes glare and results in eye strain and headaches.

Remind Employees to Observe the 20-20-20 Rule

The 20-20-20 rule is an eye exercise usually recommended by eye doctors for those whose work involves sitting for long hours in front of a computer monitor. This rule requires taking a break for 20 seconds for every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen; during this break, workers should focus on a different object at least 20 feet away.

This exercise relieves eye muscle strain from focusing on the monitor for too long. Remember that you do not need to measure the 20-foot distance; looking out of a window is just as useful. 

Introduce Safety Measures in the Workplace

Usually, physical work environments can pose risks or hazards, leading to accidents or even fatalities in the workplace. Safety measures in the workplace consist of guidelines or procedures that guarantee employees’ safety.

For example, operating or using machinery or tools should be limited to trained or expert professionals to avoid incidents. Also, employers need to prioritize reporting unsafe conditions by educating and training staff on work-related dangers and following up on procedures to remedy and mitigate potential hazards.

Provide Workers with Appropriate Eye Protection

Steering away from or avoiding hazards is not enough to guarantee one’s safety. Employees must also wear protective eyewear when handling machinery, using tools, or dealing with chemicals. Eye protection options vary from safety glasses to face shields to goggles.

Ensure that your eye protection wear is always clean and is not covered by debris or dust that can hinder performance or result in accidents. Employers should also impart safety procedures among employees in the workplace and provide first aid or emergency care in case of injuries.

Remove Potential Health and Safety Hazards

Employing and investing in prevention procedures save employers money down the line at the occurrence of injuries or accidents. For example, maintain and remove clutter in the workplace to prevent trips or falls.

Additionally, install protective shields to protect workers from flying debris or metal bits or particles that could cause serious injuries in manufacturing, construction, or welding industries. To avoid accidental injuries, it is also essential to consistently remove or clean any remaining dust or fallout.

Raise Awareness about Workplace Eye Safety

Promoting eye safety awareness in the workplace highlights employees’ collective role in maintaining safety procedures and preventing work-related eye injuries. Prevent Blindness, a leading organization advocating for eye health and preventing blindness, designated March as Workplace Eye Wellness Month.

Employers can implement various activities during this time by holding awareness sessions, providing free eye exams, or organizing meetings or seminars to engage staff and emphasize the importance of eye care and safety.

Remind Employees About Their Yearly Eye Exams

Most eye problems are detected by accident, as signs or symptoms only appear when sight is affected. Therefore, employers can take the initiative and show concern for their employees’ eye health by reminding them about necessary annual eye exams.

Employers can adopt a proactive approach to maintaining healthy eyes and diagnosing emerging or potential problems by sending dedicated reminder e-mails to all staff yearly or booking eye exams for employees in advance.

If standard employment insurance policies don’t cover eye exams, negotiating the terms with the insurance provider and securing a comprehensive insurance deal covering basic eye exams and treatments might be a good idea.

Conclusion

The overwhelming number of work-related eye injuries and problems each year underlines the importance of eye care and protection in the workplace. Whether an employer or an employee, adopting simple adjustments and careful procedures to promote eye protection and establishing a collective safety-oriented workplace culture in which everyone can participate will limit the negative impact of technology on workers’ eye health.

Isabelle Marinier is an associate editor at EyeBuyDirect, an online retailer of affordable and high-quality eyewear. She is a lifelong learner who is always eager to try new things. Marinier combines her skills and experience to transform lifestyle, fashion, and travel ideals into practical reality and relevant information.

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