Originally posted by Sandy Smith on February 10, 2015 on ehstoday.com.

The use of digital devices, including personal computers, tablets and cell phones, continues to increase. The impact of prolonged usage often can be felt in the eye.

According to a report from the Vision Council, extended use of these devices have caused as many as 70 percent of American adults to experience some form of digital eyestrain.

“By protecting our eyes at work and at home, we can help stay healthy and productive for years to come,” said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness.

Prevent Blindness, the nation’s oldest volunteer eye health and safety group, provides employers and employees with free information on topics ranging from eyestrain to industrial eye safety in order to promote eye health at work. The group even has declared March as Workplace Eye Wellness Month.

Steps You Can Take

Employers and office workers can take a few simple steps to help prevent eyestrain and fatigue from digital devices. Prevent Blindness suggests:

  • Visit an eye doctor for a dilated eye exam to make sure you 
 are seeing clearly and to detect any potential vision issues.
  • Place your screen 20 to 26 inches away from your eyes and a 
 little bit below eye level.
  • Use a document holder placed next to your computer screen. 
 It should be close enough that you don’t have to swing your head back and forth or constantly change your eye focus.
  • Adjust the text size on the screen to a comfortable level.
  • Change your lighting to lower glare and harsh reflections. 
 Glare filters over your computer screen can also help.
  • Use a chair you can adjust.
  • Choose screens that can tilt and swivel. A keyboard that you 
can adjust also is helpful.

And the Vision Council recommends the 20-20-20 break: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away.

Prevent Blindness strongly recommends the use of eye protection in the workplace, especially in industries such as construction, manufacturing or any profession where eye accidents and injuries may occur.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2012, there were 20,300 recorded occupational eye injuries that resulted in days away from work.

The organization offers two workplace programs:

The Healthy Eyes Educational Series (http://www.preventblindness.org/healthy-eyes-educational-series) is a free program that provides user-friendly, downloadable modules to conduct formal presentations or informal one-on-one sessions, including one titled “Work Safety.” Each module includes a presentation guide and corresponding PowerPoint presentation on a relevant eye health topic such as adult eye disorders, eye anatomy, healthy living, low vision and various safety topics. Fact sheets can be downloaded at any time from the Prevent Blindness web site for use as handouts to accompany the presentation.

Prevent Blindness also offers Eye2Eye (http://www.eye2eyeprogram.com), a web-based educational resource that trains employees to communicate the importance of eye health and safety to each other, increases eye safety compliance and builds a stronger culture of safety in the workplace. The program features a peer-based, interactive curriculum and community-oriented forum enabling end users to share their learnings and best practices with each other.

Eye Injuries in the Workplace 
More than 2,000 people injure their eyes at work each day. About one in 10 injuries require one or more missed workdays for recovery. Of the total number of work-related injuries, 10-20 percent will cause temporary or permanent vision loss. Experts believe that the right eye protection could have lessened the severity or even prevented 90 percent of eye injuries. The common causes of eye injuries in the workplace are:

  • Flying objects (bits of metal, glass)
  • Chemicals
  • Tools
  • Harmful radiation
  • Particles
  • Any combination of these or other hazards

3 Ways to Prevent Eye Injuries

  1. Know the eye safety dangers at work by completing an eye hazard assessment.
  2. Use engineering and administrative controls to eliminate hazards before employees start work. Use machine guarding, work screens or other engineering controls, create policies that require 100 percent compliance with eye safety protective equipment use.
  3. Use proper eye protection.