Sight is one of the most important senses. Many of us rely on it to help navigate through our daily activities. Yet, it is estimated that approximately 2,000 work-related eye injuries that require medical treatment occur daily in the United States. Eye injuries are not only costly and inconvenient for employees, but can also negatively impact business. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers reported 20,300 occupational eye injuries that resulted in days away from work. Luckily, many workplace eye injuries can be prevented with proper protective eyewear and eye safety practices.
Though it may not be obvious, employees in an office environment are at risk of eye injuries. Employees in positions that require extended periods of computer screen time are at risk of digital eye strain. Common symptoms of digital eyestrain include headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, loss of focus, and neck and shoulder pain. To alleviate digital eyestrain, employers can promote the following simple strategies:
- Give your eyes a rest by following the 20-20-20 rule where every 20 minutes you take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away. You can also take a break from the computer and add some steps to your day by taking a short walk.
- Place computer screens at least 20 inches away from your eyes and slightly below eye level.
- Make viewing and reading on your screen more comfortable by increasing the text size, adjusting the screen so that it is not too bright or dim, and positioning the screen in a way that doesn’t have glare.
Additionally, due to the nature of the job of workers in settings such as construction, manufacturing, and laboratories, they are exposed to an increased risk of eye injuries. Common eye injuries include objects such as metal slivers, wood chips, and dust striking the eye; chemical burns; and contagious eye infections. Employers in these industries can help keep employees’ eyes healthy and safe by promoting the following practices:
- If protective eyewear is required as part of the job, make the protective eyewear easily accessible to workers and provide education on proper use of said protective eyewear.
- Include signage with reminders in the work areas that require protective eyewear and encourage employees to remind each other to practice workplace eye safety.
- Have a plan for emergencies and make sure eyewash stations are easy to get to. Train employees on first-aid procedures for eye injuries.
- Include eye safety as part of your employee training and new hire orientation.
- Regularly review and revise your eye safety policies and make the policy readily available to employees.
It is also important to encourage employees to get their eyes checked annually even if they have 20/20 vision. Regular eye exams can help detect serious conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts. Healthy eyes mean a more productive workforce – continue to promote and educate workers about eye wellness and safety, both in and out of the workplace!