March is one of the most exciting, happeningest months of the year. From beginning to end it is packed full of fun events, holidays, and seasonal changes, including International Women’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, the first day of spring, Spring Break, and everyone’s favorite: National Pi Day.
But did you know March is also Workplace Eye Wellness Month?
What is Workplace Eye Wellness Month?
March was declared Workplace Eye Wellness Month by Prevent Blindness (the oldest non-profit advocate for eye health and fighting blindness in the U.S.) along with sponsorship support from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Their goal is to bring awareness of workplace eye health issues to employers and employees by sharing information and resources to educate people on proper eye protection and eye care on the job.
A Closer Look at Workplace Eye Injuries
To better understand the impact of workplace eye injuries on employers and employees, here are some surprising statistics about eye injuries that occur in the workplace:
- More than 2,000 job-related eye injuries happen every day.
- $3 million of production time, medical expenses, and worker compensation is lost each year.
- 10-20% of all job-related eye injuries result in temporary or permanent vision loss.
- 90% of all job-related eye injuries can be avoided or lessened by properly using protective eyewear.
Jobs with the highest risk of eye injuries include:
- Auto Repair
- Electrical work
The most common causes of workplace eye injuries include:
- Blue light exposure (from digital screens)
- Harmful radiation
- Flying shards of metal and glass
- Particles and debris from metal, wood, rocks, and stone
Tips and Ways to Keep Your Eyes Safe at Work
Safety should be a priority for any workplace, and employers are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to provide a safe working environment and necessary eye and face protection.
The key to any workplace safety program is management’s willingness to set an example by wearing the same eye protection required of employees.
- Assess all work areas, access routes, and equipment for potential eye hazards
- Educate employees regularly on the need for eye care and eye protection
- Have a plan for dealing with eye injuries and emergencies taught to supervisors and employees
- Have a written safety program included in employee orientation, work, and gathering areas
- Have employee eye protection fitted by someone with the proper training
- Provide adjustable chair, computer screens, and workstations for office workers
- Provide eye protection that meets current OSHA requirements and fits each job duty and hazard
- Provide eyewear repairs and require employees to be in charge of their own eyewear
- Provide vision screenings during employee physical exams
- Make eye protection mandatory in all areas of a plant
Employees also have a responsibility for their own eye health and can benefit from personal measures in addition to work guidelines.
- Inspect their eyewear and eye protection regularly for damages and never wear eye protection with damage that reduces safety significantly
- Know the eye injury and emergency plan for their workplace
- Report eye injuries in a timely manner for effective treatment
- Regularly review workplace eye safety guidelines to make sure you’re following best practices
The Dangers of Desks Jobs
Eye injuries do not occur only in blue-collar jobs. Desk and computer workers have their own unique set of eye injuries to be mindful of. These concerns include eye strain and blue light exposure, and can cause long-term vision problems including retina damage.
If you work with computers all day:
- Place your screen 20-26 inches from your eyes and a bit below eye level.
- Use a document holder next to your screen so your eyes don’t have to constantly shift focus and adjust for brightness.
- Change the lighting or adjust screen brightness to reduce glare and harsh reflections.
- Wear computer glasses with yellow-tinted lenses that block blue light.
- Use screen filters or change the setting on your devices and monitors to reduce blue light.
- Use a screen that tilts, an adjustable chair, or an adjustable keyboard
- Follow the “20-20-20” rule: every 20 minutes, look at an object 20 feet away, for 20 seconds to allow your eyes to reset and refresh.
What to Do If You Injure Your Eyes at Work
Eye injuries that aren’t treated immediately are more likely to lead to vision loss so it’s important to know your workplace’s eye injury plan, or at least where to find it.
This plan should provide clear steps to follow for treating and reporting specific eye injuries. Always defer to your workplace’s established protocol, but keep these general guidelines in mind for the most common eye injuries:
- Eye scratches – Go to the emergency room or urgent care if you’re having trouble seeing or are in a lot of pain. See an optometrist or ophthalmologist if vision problems continue.
- Getting hit in the eye – Use a cold compress to reduce any pain and swelling. Go to the emergency room or urgent care if you lost consciousness, have a black eye, or experience pain or loss of vision. Contact an eye care professional if vision problems continue.
- Particles in your eye – Use eyewash, saline solution, or water to flush it out. If those are not available, trying blinking and/or lifting your upper eyelid over the lower one. Go to the emergency room or urgent care if these methods don’t work or if pain continues.
How To Promote and Communicate Eye Safety at Work
Workplace Eye Wellness Month is a good reason for employers to share the newest eye safety resources and facts with their employees. But effective workplace eye injury prevention requires regular reminders beyond just the month of March.
You can promote eye safety at work year-round by:
- Having a written safety program included in employee orientation, work, and gathering areas.
- Making sure there’s adequate signage in work zones that require eye protection.
- Making sure management follows and knows how to properly enforce eye safety guidelines.
- Providing employees with up-to-date eye health and safety materials related to the specific eye hazards associated with their workplace and job positions.
- Sharing eye safety information to employees throughout the year from quality resources like the American Optometric Association, American Academy of Ophthalmology, and Prevent Blindness.