In the course of the work day today, about 2,000 workers will suffer a work-related eye injury which requires medical treatment. According the the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 36,000 eye injuries require time away from work each year. More accidents happen on Wednesday than any other day of the week. Chemical burns are the top injury, followed by cuts, lacerations and punctures. And with nearly half of all Americans using a computer or smart phone each day, eye strain is a growing complaint.
According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), most eye injuries are preventable. In a press release marking March as Save Your Vision Month, they offer tips for preventing eye injuries at work. They also suggest preventative steps, such as visits for a complete eye exam every two years. Most health insurance plans include periodic eye exams and some employers also offer supplementary vision benefits. Eye safety and eye health are an important part of a comprehensive wellness program, but studies show that vision benefits are often underutilized and employees show a lack of understanding about the importance of preventative care. That’s too bad, because eye exams can often be an early warning system for detecting diabetes, hypertension, and cholesterol.
Tips to ease eye strain
Included in their release, AOA offers the following tips to protect your eyes and reduce eye strain when using a computer:

  • Give It A Rest: Remember the 20-20-20 rule. At least every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away. The Eye-Q® survey found that the majority of Americans don’t follow this rule; more than half (59 percent) take breaks every hour, or less frequently.
  • Size Up: Smaller screens on hand-held devices usually favor tiny type that challenges your vision. Instead of bringing the screen closer to the eyes, increase the font size so the device can be used at a distance that is more comfortable for your eyes.
  • Sharpen Up: Better resolution offers greater clarity and usually more comfort. Adjust the brightness of the screen to a comfortable intensity, neither too bright nor too dim.
  • Reduce Glare: Hand-held devices present challenges in various lighting conditions. When possible, try to make sure lighting is not directly behind the head or in front. The AOA recommends users try to reduce glare, which may ease reading and can make a bigger difference than increasing the font.
  • Look Down: It’s easier on the eyes to focus on reading material that is below eye level, therefore, the AOA recommends a computer monitor or hand-held device be positioned slightly below eye level.

Additional resources for eye health and safety
One of the best sites we’ve found for eye safety is an extensive list of Eye Safety and Health links and resources compiled by Oklahoma State University’s Environmental Health & Safety department. These include work-related topics about eye protection and eye safety, as well as resources for general eye health.
Eye strain
22 ways to reduce eye strain at your computer
Computer eye strain – 10 steps for relief
How to relieve computer eye strain
Other occupational eye safety resources
Eye safety – from NIOSH
Workplace Eye Safety – from Prevent Blindness
Ten Ways to Prevent Eye Injuries at Work – from Prevent Blindness
Eye Safety Tool Box – from NIOSH
Eye and Face Protection e-Tool – from OSHA

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