Focus on Eye Safety and Injury Prevention

Mar. 7, 2017

When it comes to safety awareness in March, the eyes have it. Along with the coming of spring, the third month of the year brings both Workplace Eye Wellness Month and Save Your Vision Month

Workplace Eye Wellness Month, an initiative of Prevent Blindness America, highlights the need to promote eye safety on the job. Every day, more than 2000 people sustain an eye injury at work; about 10 percent of these incidents result in missed workdays. 

Common causes for eye injuries are:

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

The best way to prevent eye injury is, not surprisingly, protective eyewear. What is surprising is how often this basic safety precaution is ignored: Prevent Blindness estimates the right eye protection can lessen the severity or even prevent 90 percent of eye injuries in accidents.

Princeton University recommends eye protection for chemical and biological hazards, radiation, machining and a range of other physical hazards. To learn more, visit the Eye and Face Protection page on the EHS website. 

Blue Light Dangers

Not every eye danger is as obvious as chemicals and flying glass. To mark Save Your Vision Month, the American Optometric Association has put a focus on the long-term effects of digital device use on eye health. 

Overexposure to blue light, the high-energy visible light emitted by most screens, can lead to eye strain and sleep problems, according to the AOA. To alleviate the strain, the group recommends the 20-20-20 rule—take a 20-second break from screens every 20 minutes, to focus on something 20 feet away.   

It’s also important to maintain a comfortable distance from your digital device or computer workstation. Princeton University EHS recommends a screen distance from 18-30 inches, depending on your ability to focus, and a monitor height such that the user’s eyes are level with the top of the screen. To learn more, see our page on Computer Workstations and Ergonomics

To minimize effects on sleep patterns, the AOA recommends powering down at least one hour before bedtime. High-energy visible light can upset the normal circadian rhythms our body relies on to get a good night’s sleep. 

Whether at home or at work, glare filters can be utilized to decrease exposure to blue light. 

The Cost of Poor Eye Health 

According to Prevent Blindness America, the economic burden of vision loss and eye disorders totaled $139 billion in 2013. This includes an estimated $72.2 billion in lost productivity, long-term care and other direct health care expenses. To learn more, watch a video on the Cost of Vision Problems website.