Every March, the American Optometric Association launches a nation-wide campaign to raise awareness about workplace eye health and vision safety. Americans work hard, it’s true. According to a study, in 2015, the average American worked 1790 hours.
If you’re going to be spending that many hours at work, you’re going to want to work in a safe environment. Unfortunately, vision safety and health are not high priorities on many employers’ lists, especially when it comes to office workers.
But, let’s not focus on the negatives this March. Instead, in honor of both Save Your Vision Month and Workplace Eye Health & Safety Month, let us be aware of the hazards our workplaces pose to our eyes and what can be done to solve this issue.
Save Your Vision in One Step: The Eye Doctor
The first thing you can do to protect your vision is to pick up the phone and make an appointment with your eye doctor. You may feel that your eyesight is “good enough”, or you may think it’s unnecessary especially since you have so many other things on your plate.
Let me tell you, it is necessary and it will save you a lot of heartache in the future. Many people think that if their eyesight is good then their eye health must be good too. This notion could not be further from the truth.
Often times, doctors are the only ones who can detect early signs of disease like glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration. Symptoms of these diseases don’t show up until the later stages and often when it is too late for prevention methods.
Regular eye check-ups can also help with enhancing work productivity and reduce work-related accidents. All it takes is one visit to the eye doctor every two years.
Vision Health and Safety at the Office
Many think that the only place eye-related work injuries can happen is in a warehouse or a factory or any other place of work where manual labor and heavy machinery is involved.
Though it is true that manual laborers are more highly subjected to physical injuries (we’ll get to that later), office workers face a different set of eye issues.
The number one condition that will affect those working in an office or at a computer for long stretches of time will likely suffer from digital eye strain (also known as computer vision syndrome).
This condition occurs when your eyes become fatigued from straining to look at the computer all day. This strain causes headaches, fatigue, burning or dry eyes, blurred vision, double vision and neck or back strain. When these symptoms hit, it can slow down productivity in the workplace.
Luckily, digital eye strain is not a dangerous condition and is easily treatable. If you experience these symptoms while working at a computer, first take a break. More often than not, your eyes just need a break from the blue light emitting from the screen and the small font sizes.
Your eyes need frequent breaks. A good rule to follow is the 10-10-10 rule. Every 10 minutes, look at something 10 feet away for 10 seconds. This will allow your eyes to relax and defocus.
Other things you can do to avoid digital eye strain is to properly place your computer monitor. Ideally, the screen should be 24 inches away from the face and tilted 15 degrees below eye level to prevent neck and back pain.
You can also benefit from turning the brightness of the screen lower and getting a blue light filter to filter out the harmful light. Increasing the font size on your computer screen will also help the eyes to not focus as strenuously as they would normally.
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Vision Safety and Health: Manual Labor
You are subjected to different types of eye dangers if you work in a garage, factory, warehouse, farm or any other place that requires manual labor. These dangers mainly include objects flying into the eye and being exposed to chemicals.
Eye injuries as such can lead to severe vision impairments, glaucoma and sometimes even blindness. According to the American Association of Ophthalmology (AAO), more than 20, 000 eye injuries at work happen each year. However, the AAO also claim that 90 percent of all work-related eye injuries are preventable.
The truth is, protecting your eyes is as simple as choosing the right protective eyewear. That means that if you’re welding something opt for a full mask to cover your face, rather than safety glasses.
Here are some safety eyewear and what they’ll protect you from:
- Safety Glasses: Safety glasses are ideal for withstanding impact from flying objects and preventing objects from poking the eyes. Carpenters, mechanics and plumbers will benefit most from these protective lenses.
- Safety Goggles: Safety goggles, like safety glasses will also withstand high impact from flying objects. This eyewear will provide more protection because it closes off the eye area completely to things like dust and chemicals. These are ideal for those working in labs or with chemicals.
- Face Masks: Face masks will cover the entire face to protect mainly from electrical risks. Those working with tools such as electric saws and welders will benefit the most from the face masks.
Recognize and Eye Injury
We don’t always know when we’ve been injured. We’ve all had that random bruise appear and think, “How did I get that?” Sure, a bruise isn’t exactly an eye injury, but we can’t always tell if it’s an eye injury or just an irritation. Either way, unlike a bruise, injured eyes need immediate medical attention.
Some signs to look out for are:
- Pain in the eye
- Trouble seeing
- Trouble moving one eye
- Blood in the eye
- Irregular pupil size
It is important to know what to look for, not just for yourself, but to be able to spot an eye injury in coworkers too. If you or a co-worker show signs of an injured eye, seek professional help right away.
Take the time this March to re-evaluate (or evaluate) risks your work poses to your eyes. Many work environments strive to be as safe as possible, but accidents happen. It’s up to you to take an active role in promoting vision health and safety in the workplace.