My work often has me using a computer, laptop, or smartphone for nearly 8 hours a day, with some work or leisure activities outside of my job, I likely average a minimum of 10 hours a day staring at a screen. This is a growing problem for many as jobs and entertainment sources are becoming digitalized, even those who have jobs not involving screens may end up spending a large part of their day staring at a screen, whether that be their phone, television, tablet, or computer at home.
My vision has never been the greatest, but because of this I feel like I’m very protective of my eyes. I’m over-cautious about wearing protective equipment when working with tools and have started using the 20-20-20 rule the majority of the time when I’m at work and using a computer (Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to stare at something 20 feet away).
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, every day in the United States, an average of 2,000 workers sustain job-related eye injuries requiring medical treatment. As many as 90% of these eye injuries are believed to be avoidable with the correct eye protection. Injuries can include chemical burns, cuts, scrapes, oil or grease splashes, steam burns, UV radiation exposure, flying wood or metal debris, and bloodborne pathogens in certain job fields.
Understandably with any statistics there’s normally a percentage of injuries that could be avoided if proper procedures were in place or if proper equipment was used, but NINETY PERCENT?! That is absolutely huge, and it actually makes me wonder how many times I’ve unknowingly done some form of work that put my eyes and eyesight at risk.
The most common eye injuries reported to happen in the workplace are caused by:
- Flying objects (ie: metal, nails, glass)
- Unsafe handling of tools
- Particles (sand, sawdust)
- Chemical splashes
- Sparks/slag from welding or cutting
- Pipes and wire protruding from walls
- Objects hanging from ceilings
- Sun and wind
Due to the main issue being lack of safety equipment being used, and workers not understanding that safety equipment may be necessary for certain tasks, the easiest solution is education and simply to lead by example through the proper use of safety equipment. Workers on the jobsite should be told the risks, and they should be taught what the right eye protection is for each specific job. On-the-job training and constant supervision, combined with supervisors and managers leading by example have been proven the most effective means of improving personal protective equipment (PPE) use.
Digital Eye Strain
Another injury that is quite common in workplaces is Computer Vision Syndrome (Digital Eye Strain), which is a group of vision-related problems caused by prolonged electronic use. While not as instantaneous as the physical injuries, the effects can be similar if unchecked. It’s important to take regular breaks when staring at screens, ensure there is adequate lighting to reduce strain, and to minimize screen glare.