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WHY EYE HEALTH CAN’T BE OVERLOOKED

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Did you know that every 65 minutes, someone in Australia will lose some, or all of their vision?

Eye health is a significant national health issue – one that costs the Australian economy a staggering $16billion each year. Visual impairment also dramatically reduces our quality of life – affecting our independence and ability to do many everyday things that we otherwise take for granted. It can also lead to mental health issues, feelings of isolation and impact our relationships too.

Now in its sixth year, JulEYE is a month-long eye health community awareness campaign organised by the RANZCO Eye Foundation*. This year’s focus is on family history and eye health, but the program also serves as a reminder to take eye health and safety seriously – both at home and at work.

Healthy eyes at work

With 60% of eye injuries occurring at work, eye health continues to be a significant workplace health and safety issue. People with deteriorating vision may experience:

  • Difficulty seeing and reading in areas of reduced lighting
  • Safety issues when driving heavy equipment and operating power tools
  • Headaches and eyestrain when looking at digital screens for prolonged periods
  • Stress or irritability.

Being proactive about eye health creates safer, healthier and more productive workplaces. Helping people to care for their eyes can reduce lost time and minimise workers compensation claims – it can also help to reduce stress and anxiety and improve overall business performance.

Working outside and on the tools

With considerably higher risk of eye injury in jobs involving grinding and welding, it comes as little surprise that the majority of Australian workplace eye injuries occur in the construction and manufacturing industries. Business in these and other high risk industries must take proper precautions to minimise eye injuries caused by:

  • External objects impacting the eye
  • Exposure to high intensity light or radiation
  • Hazardous substances and foreign bodies – like dust or ash; and fragments of metal, wood or glass – entering the eye.

To keep our eyes safe whilst working outside and with high risk equipment we must:

  • Provide adequate and appropriate eye protection (i.e. safety glasses; goggles, face shields and helmets) and ensure it is worn whenever high-risk tasks are completed.
  • Ensure suitable machine guards, screens and other engineered safety controls are provided and used.
  • Regularly perform workplace eye hazard assessments and remove or mitigate hazards.
  • To allow a swift response when incidents occur, brush up on basic first aid for chemicals / particles in the eye and blows to the eye. Serious eye injuries aren’t always obvious straight away though, so if you suspect eye damage has occurred consult a doctor or ophthalmologist for a proper eye health assessment
  • UV rays can also cause long term and irreversible damage to eyes, so remember to wear a hat and UV-blocking sunglasses when you are working outside.

Maintaining eye health indoors

It is easy to overlook the risk that office environments present to eye health. However, factors like glare and excessive time spent in front of light-emitting screens can put strain on our eyes and cause long-term damage to our vision.

  • To reduce eye damage from digital eye strain, encourage people to look away from their screens regularly and facilitate screen breaks as often as possible. Endorsed by the American Optometric Association, the 20-20-20 rule suggests taking a 20 second break, every 20 minutes, and looking at something at least 20 feet (6 meters) away.
  • Concentrating reduces blinking, causing our eyes to dry out – so we should “drink and blink” to keep our eyes hydrated. To further reduce the symptoms of dry eye, ensure indoor air is clean and properly humidified.
  • Both low light and bright lights can cause eye strain, so design workplace lighting to minimise glare on digital screens and other reflective surfaces.
  • Filters can be flitted to light-emitting screens to block artificial blue light. Setting devices to “night time” or manually reducing brightness can also reduce eye fatigue.

The social, economic and personal cost of poor eye health is immense – but reassuringly, 90% of vision loss is preventable or treatable if detected early enough. Professionals recommended eye check-ups every 1-2 years, depending on risk factors like age; lifestyle (nutrition, smoking and alcohol consumption); and the presence of heredity and other pre-existing eye conditions (including ocular hypertension, diabetes and glaucoma).

Is your workplace eye-friendly workplace? How do you encourage safe and healthy eye behaviours in your business? Please share your thoughts and feedback with us via LinkedIn.

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