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The human eye can be taken for granted, especially in the workplace.

During Workplace Eye Wellness Month, it’s important to realize the significance of protecting your eyes and steps to take to make sure your eyes are safe at work. Safety precautions to prevent eye injury are easy to practice and are essential to maintain long-term vision health.

According to the organization Friends for Sight, almost 2,000 people suffer workplace eye injuries every day. About one-third of these injuries send employees to the emergency room. Most injuries in the workplace occur due to chemical splashing or small particle abrasion in the eye. Examples include: metal, wood, UV radiation burns or cleaning products.

But workplace eye injuries are not limited to an accident or spill. Studies show that computer work results in about 14 percent of reported eye injuries. Through a typical eight-hour work day, over exposure to computer screens can cause eyes to lose the ability to properly function. With occupations in front of the computer screen expected to grow, this number could continue to rise.

A man quints as he works on a computer.

Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired Education and Vision Services Director Jean Kalscheur said workplace eye wellness for employees using a computer often means taking steps throughout the day to reduce eye strain. Kalscheur offers the following tips to reduce eye strain:

  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Give your eyes a rest every 20 minutes; look away from the computer at a distance of 20 feet for 20 seconds at a time.
  • Adjust the brightness and contrast on your computer monitor to make it easier for your eyes to spend the day on a screen. Look for the brightness and contrast options in the monitor’s menu.

A report from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics states that nearly three of five workplace eye injuries occur from not wearing proper eye protection. Wearing goggles, helmets, face shields, and safety glasses will protect from dangerous eye injuries. Proper eye protection is especially essential for healthcare workers as infectious diseases can be transmitted through the eye’s mucous membrane.

“If your workplace requires you to wear protective eyewear, do it,” said Kalscheur.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide eye and face protection to guard against “chemical, environmental, and radiological hazards or mechanical irritants.”

Workers who are self-employed, such as farmers, carpenters, and metal and stone sculptors also need to keep their eyes protected.

“All of us should consider a typical work day and note where we might encounter potential eye irritants,” Kalscheur said. “If hazards exist, get protective eyewear and use those safety glasses even if the occurrences are low.”

Kalscheur said wearing prescription glasses isn’t enough to protect your eyes.

“Protective eyewear should fit close to the head so nothing can get in underneath by the cheeks, from the top by the forehead, or from the sides by the temples. Vents along the bow are a nice addition as they keep the glasses from fogging up,” Kalscheur said.

For additional information on Workplace Eye Wellness Month, go to the Friends for Sight website at www.friendsforsight.com.