Updated: Mar 1, 2022
Although many people do not consider it, the workplace can be a dangerous place for your eyes without the proper protection. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), about 2,000 people experience a workplace eye injury that requires medical care every day in the United States. These injuries are sustained through small materials scraping or penetrating the eye and through chemical or thermal burns. Injuries such as these can be prevented by wearing proper eye protection when working in environments that can be hazardous to your eyes.
When working in environments that have small particles that travel very quickly in the air, those particles can accidentally come in contact with the front surface of your eye, called the cornea. Larger objects can also harm the entire globe or eye socket if they make contact with the face with enough force. Environments with exposure to chemicals that can splash into eyes can also be extremely hazardous, as well as when working in places that have exposure to ultraviolet light. These injuries can lead to extreme pain for the individual as well as having visual consequences.
Such injuries in the workplace can be avoided by wearing the proper eye protection while working in these environments. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), workers in areas that have high velocity particles or flying objects should wear safety goggles that also have side shields to protect the sides of the face. The AOA y also states that those working with chemicals should wear goggles and those working with radiation should have the special protection required for that specific environment, either goggles, safety masks, or helmets. It is also important to note that typical glasses used and prescribed for “dress wear” are not the same as safety glasses. Safety glasses go through more rigorous testing to make sure they are safe for hazardous environments. Be sure to talk to your optometrist about your occupation and potential need for safety glasses.
Many Americans work in environments that do not propose a threat of outside hazards flying to cause injury to their eyes but definitely experience significant eye strain from their workplace. Computer Vision Syndrome is seen in 50% or more of computer users. According to the AOA, symptoms include headaches, eyestrain, blurred vision, dry eyes, and pain in the neck and shoulders. Many different environment conditions and refractive errors can contribute to these symptoms including the amount of time spent looking at digital screens and wearing the inappropriate eyewear for the distance to your computer screen. It is recommended to receive your annual comprehensive eye exams from your local optometrist so that they can work to help work to manage Computer Vision Syndrome symptoms. At work, you can also help manage your symptoms by following the 20/20/20 rule: looking 20 feet every 20 minutes for 20 seconds. This practice can help alleviate some of the eye strain from looking at screens during the work day.
Working with your local eye care professionals can help avoid potential workplace eye injuries or digital eye strain by working to find tailored preventive strategies or treatments for the conditions that are affecting eyesight at work.
1. Sheppard, A. L., & Wolffsohn, J. S. (2018). Digital eye strain: prevalence, measurement and amelioration. BMJ open ophthalmology, 3(1), e000146. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjophth-2018-000146
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013, July 29). Eye safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/eye/
3. Computer vision syndrome (Digital Eye Strain). AOA.org. (n.d.). https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/eye-and-vision-conditions/computer-vision-syndrome?sso=y
4. Protecting your eyes at work. AOA.org. (n.d.). https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/caring-for-your-eyes/protecting-your-vision?sso=y