Every March we observe workplace eye wellness month to bring attention to the wide prevalence of workplace-related eye injuries. We also take this time each year to remind everyone to make protecting their eyes at work a priority, and to consider ways that they can prevent themselves from getting a work-related eye injury.
According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, about 200 Canadians sustain a work-related eye injury each day. This doesn’t include the many more who go through significant regular eyestrain and fatigue from using electronic devices, which can increase one’s risk of suffering from dry eyes, headaches or Computer Vision Syndrome. Luckily there are a variety of measures that can be taken to lower the risk of an eye injury from ever occurring.
Occupational Eye Safety Hazards
A significant proportion of eye injuries occur when there are flying physical objects or particles present – including dust, chemicals, liquids or other loose debris. These physical objects or microscopic particles can get in the eyes by being blown around in the wind, as well as through direct contact.
Ultraviolet radiation also poses a significant risk, particularly for those in occupations that involve welding and electrical work.
The primary line of defense from sustaining an eye injury is being conscious of your workplace setting, and containing the risks where they exist. Some proactive measures can include:
- Using protective screens or meshes to protect from flying particles
- Eliminating or sealing sources of fine dust, mist or vapors
- Placing shields or safety glass around machines to prevent wood or other particles from flying
- Reading and following labels when using chemicals and being thoughtful in order to avoid splashing chemicals
- Circulating air to limit dust and fumes
- Using grease shields on frying pans or other cooking elements
Even when controlling the environmental risk within your occupational setting, it is important to take additional proactive measures in the form of wearing proper eye protection. When using eye protection, make sure that the eyewear has the CSA mark on it to ensure that it satisfies the Canadian workplace safety standards. It is also important that the eyewear is functional, comfortable and in the best operational condition.
Some best practices around wearing and maintaining protective eyewear include:
- Make sure the eyewear is comfortable and allows for clear and unobstructed viewing
- Use eyewear that blocks harmful radiation if required by your environment
- Clean the eyewear on a regular basis, following the manufacturer’s recommendations
- Inspect the eyewear regularly, and don’t wear it if it’s scratched or damaged in any way
Another very important aspect to protecting vision in the workplace setting is lighting. Poor lighting conditions (both too much or too little) can negatively impact one’s vision, comfort and ability to perform duties safely and properly. The lighting in the workplace should be set up in a way that allows a clear view of the environment, but not so bright that it causes over-exposure or requires squinting.
Glare can also result in significant discomfort and visibility issues. Glare can be caused by direct exposure (such as exposure to light from the sun, lighting, or windows) or by being reflected off other objects in the environment. It is advised to configure the working environment to minimize or eliminate sources of glare and to wear sunglasses if exposed to outdoor sunlight.
Eye Protection for Computer Use
Eye-related injuries are not only limited to those who are in industrial occupations or predominantly physical positions. People who work in an office-setting, particularly those who spend a lot of time sitting behind a computer monitor, are also at a great risk of having their vision and eye health be negatively impacted.
Those who spend 2 or more hours in front of a computer are at a greater risk of suffering from Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). The symptoms that are most associated with Computer Vision Syndrome include:
- Blurred vision
- Neck and shoulder pain
- irritated eyes (eye strain)
- dry, gritty, red or burning eyes
These symptoms can worsen if treatment or preventative measures are not implemented. There are however certain proactive measures that can be taken to prevent their onset, they include:
- Take 20 second breaks from looking at the screen every 20 minutes (20-20 Rule)
- Adjust the screen’s brightness to match the room brightness
- Increase the text size to a comfortable font level
- Minimize glare from surrounding areas
- Blink often to moisten the eyes
- Never view monitors in a dimly light room
- Rearrange your desk setup to maintain an appropriate distance from the monitor (about 60cm is best, and keep the center of the screen at about chin level)
- Use night mode display in the evening
If you’ve sustained an eye injury on the job, make sure to seek emergency treatment right away. If foreign bodies are involved, or chemical splash, it is often best to avoid applying pressure to the eye but rinsing it with water if a splash has occurred for at least 15 minutes. Make sure to never rub the eyes when getting chemicals or other foreign substances in the eyes, as this can make the situation far worse.
At Dr. Sciberras Eye Care Clinic, no emergency will be turned away. We treat eye emergencies as a priority and give attention to patients who have sustained any eye injury. If the office is closed, email us with the details or leave a voice message and Dr. Sciberras will respond quickly to give you the guidance necessary to limit permanent injury or pain.
We provide safety eyewear at reasonable prices through our partnership with ArmouRx.