March is Workplace Eye Wellness Month.
Whether your job involves operating tools and equipment or staring at a computer screen for hours, either scenario can be detrimental to your eyes.
Did you know almost 25,000 Americans visit the ER each year due to a workplace eye injury and according to OSHA, $300 million per year are lost in production time, medical expenses and worker compensation. To add to this mix, the dependence of digital devices for work and leisure has brought about more eye issues including eye strain, headaches and eye fatigue.
Since March is Workplace Eye Wellness Month, we’d like to provide some valuable information that can help you protect your eyesight depending on your type of work environment.
Prolonged Computer Work
For those of you with a job or even school situation where prolonged computer work is a necessity, here are some helpful tips to keep your eyes as healthy as possible:
- Remember to Blink: People tend to blink less often when staring at a computer screen or electronic device. Blinking helps moisten the eye so forgetting to blink can cause dry eye syndrome.
- Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water while working on your computer and keeping over-the-counter moisturizing (artificial tears) eye drops available when needed will help keep you and your eyes well hydrated
- Use the 20/20/20 Rule: Make it a habit to take a 20 second break every 20 minutes and focus your vision on something that is 20 feet away.
- Mini Breaks: Try to take mini breaks from sitting in front of your computer screen. Give your eyes a rest by getting up and walking.
- Routine Eye Exams: Always remember to have your eyes examined each year or more often if you are experiencing problems. This preventative measure will keep an “eye” on your eye health.
- Computer Eyewear: Be sure to tell your eye doctor of your daily work routine. Your doctor might be able to prescribe eyewear specifically designed for computer use.
Operation of Heavy Machinery or Power Tools
Of course, many industries require workers to operate large equipment, handle dangerous substances or handle power tools on a daily basis. Here are some important tips to keep eyes safe and health in these particular fields of work.
- Safety Eyewear: The American Academy of Ophthalmology reminds employers and workers to provide and/or wear certified and approved eye protection. OSHA estimates that 90 percent of eye injuries could be avoided through the use of proper protective eyewear. It only takes a tiny sliver of metal, particle of dust or splash of chemical to cause significant or permanent eye damage.
- Risk of Eye Infections: Certain fields of work pose risks of eye infections. These jobs might include health care, laboratory or janitorial and might require special eyewear. Make sure you are always wearing protective eyewear that is specific to the substance or work environment.
- Selecting the Right Eyewear: Choosing the proper lens material for your workplace is extremely important. While glass lenses are resistant to scratches and some chemical exposure, they lack resistance to injuries from impact and often worsen the injury. Polycarbonate lenses are lighter glass and more likely to withstand impact but it’s important to do your homework. Select protective eyewear based on specific duties or hazards.
- Evaluate Problem Areas: Assess plant operations and work areas to determine where accidents have occurred or could be a potential problem.
- Mandatory Eye Protection Program: Make sure a mandatory eye protection program is in place and rules are not lax.
- Available First-Aid: Assure first-aid procedures and equipment is available, especially when chemicals are in use.
If you or your employer has been nonchalant about workplace eye health and safety, March is the perfect time to put solid rules in place, follow precautionary steps or schedule your routine eye exam. Cherish your eyesight—make sure you are doing everything to protect it!