Business of Well-being

Protecting Your Eyes at Work and Play

At work, at home and at play, the health of your eyes can be at risk, oftentimes without even realizing it. Fortunately, when you are aware of the potential dangers, there are steps you can take to help protect your vision health.

Common Types of Vision-Related Problems

The everyday hazards that our eyes encounter can range from the UV rays of the sun, to foreign objects, chemicals and eye strain. Unfortunately, many people don't realize the harm the sun can have on vision. Ultraviolet (UV) rays can harm both the internal and external structures of the eye. Short-term exposure can cause burns the surface of the eye, much like a sunburn on the skin, causing the individual pain.

Over time, UV exposure can contribute to a range of more serious conditions including cataracts, macular degeneration and skin cancer around the eyelids. The most common eye injuries occur by rubbed or foreign matter, such as dust particles or splinters. This can cause cuts or scrapes on the cornea.

Other causes of injury can be chemical in nature, including splashes, burns from steam or radiation exposure. In addition, there is a risk of acquiring infectious diseases from exposure to the eye. This is particularly common among health care workers, laboratory and janitorial staff. Infectious diseases can be transmitted due to exposure through coughing or sneezing and touching the eyes with contaminated fingers.

Today's increasing computer and video game use by adults and children often leads to eyestrain and fatigue, commonly referred to as Computer Vision Syndrome. Some of the most frequent symptoms include eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes and neck or shoulder pain. Now that we've identified some of the risks, let's take a look at the preventative measures that can be taken to avoid eye discomfort, pain and injury.

Protecting Your Eyes at Work

Each day, more than 2,000 American workers suffer an eye injury, according to Prevent Blindness America (PBA). These injuries have resulted in more than $300 million in lost time, medical expenses and worker compensation, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).Some occupations at high risk for eye injuries include: Construction

  • Manufacturing
  • Electrical Work
  • Plumbing
  • Welding
  • Maintenance
  • Mining
  • Carpentry
  • Auto Repair
  • Laboratories

There are two major reasons employees experience eye injuries on the job:

1) not wearing eye protection or

2) wearing the wrong kind of eye protection for the job.

In fact, a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) survey of workers who suffered eye injuries revealed that nearly three out of five were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident. These workers most often reported that they believed protection was not required for the situation. PBA estimates that nearly 90% of workplace injuries could be avoided if safety eyewear is used effectively. On-the-job eye protection includes:

  • Safety Glasses with Side Protection (shields against particles, flying objects and dust)
  • Goggles (when working with chemicals)
  • Face Shields (designed to protect whole face; must be supplemented with safety glasses)
  • Helmets (protection from welding, soldering and brazing; must be supplemented with safety glasses)

In addition, employers need to take steps to make the work environment as safe as possible. This includes:

  • Conducting an eye hazard assessment of the workplace
  • Removing or reducing eye hazards where possible
  • Providing appropriate safety eyewear and requiring employees to wear it
  • Ensuring proper maintenance of eyewear (including proper fit, scratch-free lenses and cleanliness of eye protection)
  • Maintaining proper machine guards, using screened or divided work stations and implementing other engineering controls

Being aware of the potential hazards and putting preventative safety measures in practice is the best way to ensure eye health in the workplace. The risks in the office environment are different, but can be as harmful. Inadequate lighting, glare, poor seating and improper viewing distances can contribute to Computer Vision Syndrome.

Viewing a computer screen often makes the eyes work harder than normal. The high visual demands may cause individuals to be more susceptible to the development of vision-related symptoms. Simple fixes can include:

  • Repositioning the computer screen so that it is at eye level
  • Keeping reference materials located above the keyboard and below the monitor or using a document holder beside the monitor
  • Positioning the screen to avoid glare from overhead lighting or sunlight
  • Consider using an anti-glare screen
  • Adjusting your seating position to maintain proper posture with feet resting flat on the floor and arms supported
  • Resting your eyes. Look into the distance to allow your eyes a chance to refocus. Take breaks away from the computer.
  • Making an effort to blink regularly to reduce your chances of developing dry eye

Regular eye examinations and proper viewing habits can help to prevent or reduce the development of symptoms associated with Computer Vision Syndrome. Protecting Your Eyes at HomeOften it is during leisure time that hazards to eyesight are overlooked. At home, the risks of eye injury can occur in a variety of common settings including:

  • Cooking accidents
  • Do-it-yourself work on cars and homes
  • Chemical splashes from pesticides, fertilizers, drain cleaners and cleaning sprays
  • Yard work - mowing grass, trimming trees/bushes and using a weed whacker
  • UV exposure when outdoors

Whenever possible, you should wear eye protection. When working on home projects, such as chopping wood, hammering nails or anything that can fly around, professional quality goggles should be worn. These can be purchased at most home supply stores. Machinery often includes safety shields or other devices that can be used to minimize projectile objects.

Preventative measures when cooking can include covering dishes or using a screen that can prevent hot food from splattering. If you do suffer an eye injury, it is important to seek immediate medical attention particularly if you have pain, blurred vision or loss of vision. No matter what the season, when outdoors eye protection from the sun is essential.

The proper eyewear can protect your eyes from damaging UV rays. When looking for eye protection, make sure the lenses block 99 - 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Wraparound sunglass frames can offer further protection. For prolonged sun exposure such as the beach, experts recommend a hat and sunglasses combo for maximum protection. Limiting the time you are exposed to the sun is also a key factor to preventing damage to your vision.

Protecting Your Eyes at Play

In sports, we take precautions to protect ourselves from broken bones, bruises, concussions and other injuries, but how do we protect our eyes? An unprotected eye can be injured in numerous ways and nearly all sports pose some type of risk.

  • Baseball - Risks include a wild pitch, a thrown bat or a pop-up ball lost in the glare of the sun. Players should wear a faceguard of sturdy plastic or polycarbonate, along with eye goggles or guards.
  • Basketball - Players should wear eye goggles to protect from flying elbows and fingers and off-thrown basketballs.
  • Soccer - Players should wear eye guards in the event of a wayward elbow, ball or foot.
  • Football - Like other contact sports, players should wear eye guards and a full face guard to prevent injury.
  • Hockey - Sticks, pucks, and appendages fly in a hockey match and players should be equipped with a full mask to prevent eye or other facial injuries.
  • Tennis or Racquetball - Protect your eyes from a misjudged ball or flying racquets, eye goggles should be worn.
  • Skiing - Sports lenses from polycarbonate are best to protect your eyes from wind, sun, snow and glare.
  • Swimming - Goggles protect from lake or ocean water and chemicals in pools, particularly if they are not balanced. Also, do not wear your contacts in the water.
  • Hiking/Camping - Beware of insect bites and poison ivy, oak, and sumac. Keeping your hands away from your eyes is important. Make sure that repellant is kept away from your eyes as well.

The eyes help an athlete determine timing, coordination and speed. Protecting vision is of the utmost importance and can even give players an edge by increasing performance.

Incorporating Vision Wellness into Your Lifestyle

Proper vision care allows you to fully enjoy the activities of your lifestyle. Vision care is now more accessible and affordable with an increasing number of optical doctors, retailers and vision care benefits available. By regularly taking steps to protect your eyesight, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and having regular eye exams, you can decrease your risk of injury, impairment and disease.

Don't take your vision for granted. The precautions you take now may allow you to have the benefit of seeing a healthier and brighter future. EyeMed Vision Care is focused on eye health and wellness solutions through comprehensive plans built on a diverse provider network.

EyeMed plans save members money on all their eye care needs through a network of thousands of private practitioners and leading optical retailers including LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sears OpticalSM, Target Optical and JCPenney Optical. EyeMed's unique approach to vision benefits offers substantial savings to employers and employees.

EyeMed's programs also cover comprehensive eye exams, which not only preserve eyesight but can also detect serious conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease early. EyeMed is also the sponsor of a OneSightSM Vision Van, which travels the country providing free eye care and eyewear to children in need.

The Van will visit 40 cities and help more than 6,000 people this year. EyeMed Vision Care is dedicated to improving quality of life through better vision. For nearly two decades, EyeMed has provided flexible, comprehensive vision wellness plans. Serving more than 140 million members through 5,000+ clients, EyeMed is among today's leading vision care benefit providers.

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