Things to do to avoid eye injuries at work | Health

Hundreds of thousands of American workers suffer an eye injury on the job each year, costing an estimated $300 million collectively in medical care, lost productivity, and workers’ compensation.

To shed light on this important issue, eye care providers such as the Hattiesburg Eye Clinic annually recognize March as Workplace Eye Wellness Month.

“The vast majority of work-related eye injuries result from foreign bodies lodged in the eye,” said Dr. David Richardson, ophthalmic surgeon at the Hattiesburg Eye Clinic. “These foreign objects can include anything from a piece of metal sticking out of a nail head to tiny shavings of wood, metal, or plastic. And if your job involves it, your eyes can also be exposed to hot sparks or chemical splashes.

It’s not just construction or industrial workers – office workers often suffer from eye strain from long periods of staring at desktop computer, tablet or smartphone screens. While not as harmful to the eyes as industrial hazards, eye strain can contribute to other health issues.

“In itself, eye strain does not cause permanent damage. It can, however, lead to dry eyes and significant discomfort,” Dr. Richardson said. “Eye strain can also contribute to headaches or insomnia, which could affect your long-term health.”

However, there is good news about work-related eye injuries: 90% of them are preventable.

“By taking preventative measures, along with prompt action in the event of an injury, you can either avoid an eye injury on the job or reduce damage to your vision and your health,” Dr. Richardson said.

By far the most important thing workers can do is wear eye protection in hazardous environments.

“At a minimum, workers should wear safety glasses or goggles, and ideally wrap-around goggles or face shields to protect the eyes from flying debris coming from all directions,” Dr. Richardson said.

Workers should also take extra care when handling caustic chemicals to avoid splashing into the eyes. But if this happens, immediately flush eyes with clean running water for at least five minutes to remove or dilute the chemical. And for any eye injuries, see a doctor as soon as possible.

“In many cases of foreign body intrusion, we can easily remove the object,” Dr. Richardson said. “If it gets deeply ingrained, however, you might need surgery. Either way, you risk further eye damage if we don’t treat it.”

Office workers can also do things to protect against eye strain and dryness. The latter usually happens because the eyes don’t blink enough for long periods of focus, Dr. Richardson said.

To limit this, make sure your eyes are about 25 inches from the screen and you’re looking at it from a downward angle rather than straight up. Make sure the screen and room lighting are dim enough not to cause glare, and increase the contrast on your screen to help focus. It’s also wise to keep a bottle of artificial tears handy to periodically refresh dry eyes.

Anyone working on electronic screens should follow the “20-20-20” rule, advises Dr. Richardson.

“Set an alarm to pause your screen every 20 minutes,” he said. “Then look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds before returning to your screen.”

Your eyes are a valuable asset to your work and your life, says Dr. Richardson, “so be sure to take care of them when you’re at work.

For more information on proper eye care or how to improve vision health, call the Hattiesburg Eye Clinic at 601-268-5910 (or toll-free at 800-624-8254) or drop by visit the website to learn more or to schedule a consultation at hattiesburgeyeclinic.com.

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