No matter where your workplace is, eye safety should always be at the top of your priorities. While working in an industrial setting requires physical eye protection in the form of safety goggles, lenses and other equipment, working in a digital setting poses an equal risk.
In the US alone, 70% of adults suffer from what is known a "digital eye strain". This is when the prolonged use of computer, phone and laptop screens begins to damage the eyes, causing pain, discomfort and even full of partial blindness. With over 2000 Americans suffering a workplace-related eye injury every single day, the importance of proper protection is clear.
No matter where you work, you are entitled to perform your job in a safe environment that is free from health risks, physical or otherwise. This means that you are fully entitled to be provided any necessary eye protection from your employer.
Beyond this, there are a number of simple steps that you can take to reduce risk and avoid damage to your sight. Here are your top tips for eye protection in the workplace.
The first step towards adequate eye protection is knowing the risks you face. Some of these might be obvious. Perhaps your work on a factory floor where you are in regular contact with dangerous tools, or rapidly moving parts.
Maybe you work in a restaurant kitchen, where to risk of open flames and spitting oil is a daily reality. If you work in an office or at home, the most obvious and common risk is digital. Staring at screens all day can have a considerably damaging effect on your eyesight.
Knowing where the dangers like is the first step towards ensuring effective eye safety in the workplace. Simply asking your doctor should give you all the answers you need.
Speak to Your Employer
If you're concerned about your eye safety at work, the next important step is to speak to your employer about it. Chances are they've had this conversation before, and they should be willing to accommodate any requests you have for improved protection.
They should at the very least be able to provide you with any vital equipment such as eye safety goggles or instruct you on how to protect yourself properly. This could simply take the form of them recommending that you start wearing safety glasses, or helping you adjust your screen settings.
Your boss is the person ultimately responsible for employee safety, so reach out as soon as possible.
Get Some Goggles
This probably won't apply if you work in a conventional office setting, but for many other workplaces, safety goggles are critical. If you're working in an environment where there is a reasonable daily level of risk to your eyes, your workplace will be legally required to provide you with eye goggles.
This includes but is not limited to; construction sites, factory floors, shipping warehouses, chemical plants, and waste disposal sites.
Even if you are undertaking a one-off job which presents a greater than usual risk to your eye safety, speak to your employer to ensure you are provided with goggles.
Consider Other Forms of Eye Protection
For virtually every workplace, goggles are not the only suitable form of protection. Even something as every day as daily contact lenses can provide a vital extra layer of protection, for example in keeping our water-borne bacteria and parasites.
Water carries a hidden and unexpected risk to eye safety, including the carrying of bacteria and parasites. Recently, more research has been conducted into this and how to mitigate the risks, so you should check it out to find out more about how you can keep yourself protected. If you're working outdoors, consider ways to protect your eyes from sunlight and harmful UV rays. One of the more overlooked types of eye protection is hats and sunglasses which can block out or deflect the sun's rays.
Take a Break
While this is important for all types of workers, it is especially relevant to those working with screens for prolonged periods. Digital eye strain is most commonly caused by staring at screens for long periods of time, so taking regular breaks can mitigate risks significantly.
The Vision Council recommends the so-called 20-20-20 break. This means that for every 20 minutes you spend staring at a screen, take a 20-second break and look at something that is 20 feet away. You should also factor in much longer breaks to be fitted in every hour or so. Consider taking a few minutes to stand up and walk away from your workstation.
Give your eyes adequate time to rest and recover before returning to your screen. Just the shortest of breaks can significantly improve eye safety.
Adjust Your Screens
If you must stare at screens for a long period of time, there are changes you can make to this way that you do this in order to protect your eyes.
Firstly, place your screen at least 20 inches away from your eyes (but no more than 26 inches away). Make sure that the text size on your screen is large enough for you to read comfortably. Adjust your light settings to a lower glare, and consider investing in a glare protector for your screen.
Make sure you're using an adjustable chair, as well as a screen with a changeable height setting. These simple steps can make the world of difference for your eyes.
As with all health issues, your diet can help protect you from eye damage. The best foods to ensure healthy eyes include oily fish like salmon and tuna and leafy greens such as spinach and kale. Also try oranges and other citrus fruits as regularly as possible, and don't shy away from stuffing yourself on nuts, seeds, and beans.
Carrots may not actually improve eyesight, but there is no shortage of foods that are great for improving your eye health.
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