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Simple Steps Can Protect Workers’ Vision

By SHRM Online Staff  3/2/2010
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Workers in all industries and types of careers—from construction to desk jockey—can take steps to preserve their vision while on the job.

The American Optometric Association (AOA) reports that visual discomfort, eye strain and eye injuries in the workplace are common, whether from flying debris at a construction site or the glare from a handheld PDA.

“Healthy vision is critical to successfully completing job-related tasks,” said James Sheedy, O.D., Ph.D., director of the Vision Ergonomics Laboratory at the College of Optometry at Pacific University and the AOA occupational vision specialist. “And while most people think of construction or manufacturing as high-risk occupations where eye injuries are prevalent, even jobs requiring smartphones, laptops and desktop computers can cause vision problems if not used properly.”

Findings from the AOA American Eye-Q survey show that nearly half of all respondents (46 percent) spend five or more hours a day using a computer or PDA. Prolonged use of electronic devices can lead to Computer Vision Syndrome, characterized by eye strain, dry eyes, headaches, fatigue, blurred vision and loss of focus.

Computer Vision Syndrome “can be a serious problem for those who spend hours in front of a computer or handheld electronic device on a daily basis,” said Sheedy in a news release. “However, in this digital era, no one expects Americans to simply stop using these devices. Small steps can make big changes to ease vision strain.”

Here are the AOA’s recommendations for using computers and PDAs:

  • For every 20 minutes spent on the computer or using a PDA, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away. More than half of respondents to the Eye-Q survey said they take breaks only every hour or less frequently.
  • Increase the font size on handheld electronic devices, instead of holding the device close to your eyes to see it better.
  • Sharpen the resolution and adjust the brightness—neither too bright nor too dim.
  • Make sure that lighting is not directly behind your head or in front of you. Users can reduce glare to ease reading.
  • Position your computer monitor or PDA slightly below your eye level—it’s easier on your eyes.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in approximately 60 percent of eye injury cases, workers failed to wear proper protective eyewear, the AOA reported. The AOA found in its Eye-Q survey that nearly two-thirds of respondents do not wear safety glasses or goggles when needed during home repairs.

“The two main reasons workers experience eye injuries are either because they are not wearing eye protection or they are wearing the wrong kind of protection for the job,” Sheedy said in the release.

To protect eyes from injury:

  • Know the eye-safety dangers.
  • Eliminate hazards before starting work by using machine guards, work screens or other measures.
  • Wear the proper eye protection, and make sure it is fitted correctly.
  • Keep safety eyewear in good condition, and replace it if damaged.

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