Protecting your Eyes at Work

Director Media Relations
Organisation: Prevent Blindness

On World Day for Safety and Health at Work, Sarah Hecker, Director Media Relations at IAPB Member organisation Prevent Blindness, writes about the important issue of protecting eyes at work and how it helps preserve healthy eyesight for the future.

Spreadsheet software can be a helpful accounting tool.  © Heiko Philippin

Image credit: Heiko Philippin, Community Eye Health Journal

Since so much of our time is spent at work, protecting your eyes in an office setting or while on a jobsite, is very important.  To help address this, Prevent Blindness, the  oldest volunteer eye health and safety group in the United States, provides free information on the dangers of blue light, digital devices and vision, and eye injury prevention in order to promote eye health at work.

There is concern over the long-term effects of screen exposure (from television screens, computer monitors, smart phones, and tablet screens) because of the close proximity of the screens and the length of time spent looking at them, such as during the workday combined with leisure time. Early research shows that too much exposure to blue light could lead to:

  • Digital eyestrain: Fatigue, dry eyes, bad lighting, or how one sits in front of the computer can cause eyestrain. Symptoms of eyestrain include sore or irritated eyes and difficulty focusing.
  • Retina damage: Studies suggest that continued exposure to blue light over time could lead to damaged retinal cells. This can cause vision problems such as age-related macular degeneration or cataract.

Retinal diseases are the main causes of visual impairment in upper-middle- and high-income countries

According to WHO, even though cataracts appear to different degrees in most individuals as they age, sun exposure, in particular exposure to UVB, appears to be a major risk factor for cataract development.

To protect your eyes from blue light exposure, Prevent Blindness recommends:

  • Screen time: Try to decrease the amount of time spent in front of these screens and/or take frequent breaks to give your eyes a rest.
  • Filters: Screen filters are available for smart phones, tablets, and computer screens. They decrease the amount of blue light given off from these devices that could reach the retina in our eyes.
  • Computer glasses: Computer glasses with yellow-tinted lenses that block blue light can help ease computer digital eye strain by increasing contrast.
  • Anti-reflective lenses: Anti-reflective lenses reduce glare and increase contrast and also block blue light from the sun and digital devices.
  • Intraocular lens (IOL): After cataract surgery, the cloudy lens will be replaced with an intraocular lens (IOL). The lens naturally protects the eye from almost all ultraviolet light and some blue light. There are types of IOL that can protect the eye and retina from blue light.
  • Talk to an eye care professional about options about ways to protect your family and your eyes from blue light.

And, for those who work in an industrial setting, to help prevent an eye injury at work, Prevent Blindness recommends:

  • Know the eye safety dangers at work-complete an eye hazard assessment
  • Eliminate hazards before starting work. Use machine guarding, work screens, or other engineering controls)

Use proper eye protection such as non-prescription and prescription safety glasses, goggles, face shields, welding helmets, or full-face respirators.

To find out more about workplace eye health topics, please visit preventblindness.org.