Love Your Eyes at work – employers are being encouraged to prioritise workers’ eye safety this World Sight Day

With Thursday, 12 October marking World Sight Day 2023, The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPD) is calling on business leaders globally to prioritise the eye health of workers; a call to action that is strongly backed by Optometry Australia.

By encouraging employers to take stock of their existing policies and implement the necessary changes to help prevent eye injuries occurring on the clock, World Sight Day’s Love Your Eyes at Work will use its platform to elevate and elaborate on the importance of eye health initiatives in the workplace.

“In Australia, around 60 percent of all eye injuries occur in the workplace; hospital emergency departments see everything from chemical burns to penetrating injury. When you consider that nine in 10 cases of ocular injuries are preventable by wearing appropriately prescribed eye protection, it becomes clear that key decision makers in the workplace should be proactive in adopting and implementing procedures that protect employees’ eyes as a priority,” said Lyn Hsieh, optometrist and National Professional Services Advisor at Optometry Australia.

Understanding the Problem 

Eye injuries in the workplace are a significant concern, not only for individuals but also for their families and communities; these injuries do not just lead to potential vision loss but also have a substantial economic impact on society as a whole. The direct cost of eye injuries in Australia is estimated to exceed $155 million per year. However, it doesn't have to be this way.

"Optometrists have the expertise to provide optimum eye health safety in the workplace, which goes beyond merely advising workers to wear safety glasses. Prioritising optometry consultation means that you are offering individualised care and attention, which is required to provide the right level of protection. This involves assessing the specific needs of each employee and their work environment which can impact their overall well-being."

From construction and mining sites to science laboratories, eye injuries can be a result from a range of hazards, including: 

  • High-speed small objects or low-speed large objects 
  • Dust and airborne particles 
  • Chemical exposure 
  • Thermal energy 
  • Radiation 

Choosing the Right Eye Protection 

Working with optometrists to establish the right eye protection solutions for workers is a crucial aspect of preventing onsite and in-office eye injuries. It involves the optometrist having a comprehensive understanding of the hazards present and the specific requirements of employees and the work environment.  

“One of the key contributions of optometrists is the fitting of employees with appropriate eye protection. This ensures that protective eyewear is not only effective in preventing injuries but also comfortable to wear for extended periods. Optometrists possess the expertise to differentiate between low, medium and high-impact hazards and can prescribe accordingly.”

Appropriate eye protection may include safety glasses, goggles, face shields or specialised eyewear that protects against specific hazards. 

Digital eye strain 

People of working age in Australia now spend an average of more than six hours per day staring at screens. This extended screen time forces our eyes to maintain a fixed focus for prolonged periods, exerting considerable strain on our eye muscles. Additionally, spending substantial hours in front of screens leads to a decrease in our blink rates, leading to eye irritation. 

“Eye strain caused by staring at a computer screen for hours on end in the office can cause significant discomfort for employees as well as reduce their overall productivity.”

Tips for minimising eye strain in the workplace 

  • If you wear prescription glasses or contacts, ensure they’re providing appropriate vision correction while you are using a computer 
  • Dry, itchy eyes are a common symptom of eye strain – try to remember to take “blink breaks” while working 
  • Adjust your computer screen so it’s one arm’s length in front of your face 
  • Reduce the amount of overhead and surrounding light that is competing with your device’s screen 
  • Visit your optometrist every two years for a routine eye exam, or sooner if you have vision concerns 

A final thought 

Preventing workplace eye injuries is a shared responsibility between optometrists and employers.  

“By understanding the diverse hazards present in different work environments and by taking a proactive approach to eye safety, the economic and personal costs associated with workplace eye injuries can be significantly reduced. Protecting vision is not just an individual concern; it's a collective responsibility that benefits everyone.”

You can use our Find an Optometrist search tool to book an appointment with your nearest optometrist today. 

World Sight Day workplace toolkits can also be found here. 

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