May 3rd, 2016 8:26 am ET - Michelle Lee, BA; Sydney Webb, PhD; L. Casey Chosewood, MD, MPH; James Grosch, PhD; Juliann Scholl, PhD; and Chia-Chia Chang, MPH, MBA
NIOSH is excited to partner with the National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute (NEI) to help promote Healthy Vision Month! Every May, the NEI empowers Americans to make their eye health a priority and educates them about steps they can take to protect their vision. For more on NEI’s Healthy Vision Month campaign, visit theirwebsite.
Safe and healthy vision is an important topic for just about everyone, but has particular significance in the context of work. The workplace and the type of work we do have a critical influence on eye safety and overall health. While workers have a vested interest in safeguarding their eyes, employers have a legal and ethical responsibility to keep workers safe from hazards, including those that may impact vision. Every day, about 2,000 US workers receive medical treatment because of eye injuries sustained at work. The most common causes of these injuries include: small particles or objects striking the eye, blunt force trauma, chemical burns, and thermal burns. Some workers are at an additional risk of exposure to infectious disease transmissible through the mucous membranes of the eye as a result of exposure to droplets of blood and other body fluids or other contact. Poorly organized, designed or maintained workplaces can also put workers at risk of eye injury. Inadequate lighting that impacts sight and poor or declining vision can also contribute to many types of work-related injuries, including traffic incidents and slips, trips, or falls.
Eye safety and health is also of special concern to older workers. It’s no secret that our workforce is aging—and with that demographic shift, organizations may experience an increase in the number of workers who are at a higher risk of developing age-related eye diseases and conditions, including age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic eye disease, glaucoma, and chronic dryness of the eyes. Vision loss from many common eye diseases is often preventable if detected and treated early.
Recognizing that workplace injury is a leading cause of eye trauma, vision loss, disability, and blindness; resolve to prevent work-related eye injuries and promote eye health this Healthy Vision Month and beyond.
What Can Employers Do?
- Conduct an eye-hazard assessment of all workspaces and remove or reduce all eye hazards where possible.
- Optimize the lighting in the workplace for the tasks being performed.
- Provide appropriate personal protective eyewear for the types of hazards at the worksite, such as: goggles, face shields, safety glasses, or full-face respirators.
- Assist workers by providing training and assistance with proper use, fit, and maintenance of protective equipment.
- Use caution flags to identify potential hazards, such as hanging or protruding objects.
- Provide emergency sterile eyewash solutions/stations and post first-aid instructions near hazardous areas.
- Offer workers the flexibility to switch job tasks and/or take breaks as needed to reduce eyestrain.
- Ask workers if they would benefit from modifications that would improve visibility of their tasks, such as magnifying glasses, increased lighting, and bigger fonts on written materials.
- Offer comprehensive vision screenings onsite or through the benefits plan, if possible, or provide workers with information on community resources that may offer such screenings.
- Consider providing shelter from the sun and/or sunglasses if workers must spend much time outdoors. Prolonged exposure to sunlight can increase risk for getting eye diseases and conditions, such as cataracts or age-related macular degeneration.
- Connect workers with resources to prevent or address chronic conditions that could impact their vision, such as diabetes.
What Can Workers Do?
- Get a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Talk to your eye care professional about how often you should have one. If you want to see what your eye care professional sees during a dilated eye exam, check out NEI’s eye exam animation!
- Use protective eyewear. This includes wearing safety glasses, goggles, safety shields, and eye guards. If you’re not sure what eyewear to use at work, talk with your supervisor.
- Wear eyewear that fits comfortably on the face. Talk to your eye care provider about the appropriate type of protective eyewear for your job.
- Live a healthy lifestyle. Eating healthy foods, maintaining a healthy weight, managing chronic conditions, and not smoking can lower your risk of eye disease.
- Learn more about your family history. Because many eye diseases are hereditary, this may help to determine if you are at higher risk for developing an eye disease yourself.
- Wear sunglasses outside to protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Look for sunglasses that block out 99 to 100% of both UVA and UVB radiation, so you can keep your eyes healthy.
Have you avoided eye injury by taking the actions listed above? What steps do you routinely take to promote healthy sight for yourself or those in your organization? Please share in the comments below.
For more information:
Ms. Lee is a Public Health Analyst in the NIOSH Office for Total Worker Health with a focus in Research Translation and Communication
Dr. Webb is a Health Communications Specialist Fellow in the NIOSH Division of Safety Research.
Dr. Chosewood is the Director of the NIOSH Office for Total Worker Health.
Dr. Grosch is a Research Psychologist in the NIOSH Division of Applied Research and Technology and Co-Director of the National Center for Productive Aging and Work.
Dr. Scholl is a Health Communication Fellow in the NIOSH Education and Information Division and Co-Director of the National Center for Productive Aging and Work.
Ms. Chang is a Public Health Analyst and the Coordinator for Partnership and New Opportunity Development in the NIOSH Office for Total Worker Health.