Each day, about 2,000 U.S. workers sustain job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The National Eye Institute estimates that 90% of those workplace eye injuries could be prevented through the use of proper protective eyewear. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards require employers to see that workers have suitable eye protection. Yet the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that nearly three out of every five workers injured were not wearing eye protection at the time of the injury, or were wearing the wrong kind of eye protection for the job.
NEI, the AOA Eye Safety Project Team, and safety eyewear manufacturers all say optometrists can play a critical role in bringing proper safety eyewear to workers-particularly the employees of small and medium-size businesses. While most of the nation’s larger employers have established formal safety eyewear programs for workers, relatively few smaller employers have such programs, the AOA Eye Safety Project Team notes. To assist AOA members in conducting public education efforts on safety eyewear during Healthy Vision Month (March), and in developing safety eyewear practices, the AOA Eye Safety Project Team has compiled the follow materials: Eye Safety — You Can Make the Difference – an Optometry: Journal of the American Optometric Association from the AOA Eye Safety Project Team. Eye Safety is Everyone’s Business – a comprehensive practice management tutorial on the development of a safety eyewear practice, from the Practice Strategies section of Optometry: Journal of the American Optometric Association. The Importance of Eye Protection for Work and Recreation – a PowerPoint presentation. And, Eye Safety Fact Sheet – a handout for use in presentation to employers, workers or public education efforts. Please follow the instructions below to protect your workers:
Eye Safety Fact Sheet (Share these with your employees)
- Approximately 60 percent of workers sustaining eye injuries were not wearing proper protective eyewear, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “I didn’t think I needed them” should never be the answer as to why safety glasses were not worn.
- Under the Healthy People 2010 program, the nation’s official public health agenda, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services hopes to cut workplace eye injuries by almost a third over the course of this decade.
- Industry standards now recognize two classes of industrial safety lenses: traditional basic impact lenses and high impact lenses, shown in ballistic tests to offer improved protection against flying particles. Basic impact protectors can only be worn in situations where known or presumed hazards are low impact in nature. High impact protectors (Z87+) provide protection to hazards of high velocity and/or high mass.
- Safety eyewear is now available in a variety of new styles and materials that make it more attractive and comfortable to wear.
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards require employers to ensure workers have suitable eye protection.
- To that end, OSHA requires employers to formally assess workplace eye hazards, select the appropriate type of eyewear to use, train and certify employees in eye protection, and plan for eye emergencies. (See the OSHA Eye and Face Protection eTool, a step-by-step guide to OSHA requirements, hazard assessment and safety eyewear selection at www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/eyeandface/index.html)
- Workers who wear prescription glasses must also wear required eye protection.
- Protective eyewear must be properly fitted to be effective. Don’t let lack of comfort be a barrier to full-time safety eyewear use.
- The American Optometric Association recommends that supervisory officials in the workplace, in schools, and at recreational events should mandate wear of eye protection in all activities in which a risk of eye injury exists.
- The National Eye Institute (NEI) has dedicated Healthy Eyes Month to workplace eye safety. Now is an appropriate time for employers to ensure that all workers have proper eye protection.
Healthy Eyes are required for a Productive Workforce.
In a recent article from About.com, we learned that according to the AOA’s American Eye-Q survey, nearly half of all Americans (46 percent) spend five or more hours per day using a computer or a personal digital assistant. While technology improves work productivity, the prolonged use of electronic devices may lead to problems such as eye strain, headaches, dry eyes, fatigue, blurred vision, and loss of focus. Here are five steps to vision care, as recommended by the AOA:
Give It A Rest: Remember the 20-20-20 rule. At least every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away. The survey found that the majority of Americans don’t follow this rule.
Size Up: Smaller screens on hand-held devices usually favor tiny type that challenges your vision. Increase the font size so the device can be used at a distance more comfortable for your eyes.
Sharpen Up: Better resolution offers greater clarity and creates more comfort. Keep the brightness of the screen at a comfortable intensity, not too bright or too dim.
Reduce Glare: Try to make sure lighting is not directly behind the head or in front. Hand-held devices present challenges in various lighting conditions.
Look Down: It’s easier on the eyes to focus on reading material that is below eye level; therefore, the AOA recommends a computer monitor or hand-held device be positioned slightly below eye level.
Hopefully, most employers include vision insurance for their employees and dependents in their benefits package. If this is not the case, vision education and testing should be done. Day and evening seminars (sponsored by the company) that cover vision information can educate workers on the need for eating proper foods for healthy vision, and changes in vision as people age. Providing initial vision testing for family members on vision day could be an added perk. It is important that employers encourage compliance in eye protection.
Source: AOA; About.com