Occupational eye health: protecting eyes from screens

Occupational eye health: protecting eyes from screensHow does looking at a computer screen for 8 hours per day affect the eyes? We have talked extensively about the problem of blue light, and much of our exposure to it comes from working desk-based jobs. There are ways to protect the eyes against blue light, and it is something employees and employers should be aware of.

Eye health problems associated with screen usage

Eye fatigue often suffered by screen users, from the long hours spent looking at one. Studies cited by the Optometrists Association of Australia say that up to 48% of workers suffer from the problem. Eye fatigue is characterised by:

  • sore, red eyes
  • tired eyes
  • headaches
  • a tendency to squint at the screen
  • difficulty changing focus from the screen when looking away
  • blurred distance vision immediately after work

This can only be worsened by the fact that many people switch from a computer screen to a TV or smartphone during the evening.

There have been some initial studies linking dry eye syndrome, where the eye cannot produce enough tears, to computer use, although the results are limited.

Blue light at work

Blue light is also a concern, and goes beyond our lives in offices. We are exposed to it from computer screens and fluorescent office lighting but also from TVs, smartphones and tablets.

The short, high energy wavelengths from blue light flicker more easily, which creates glare, reduces visual contrast and affect clarity of vision. Blue light can cause retina damage, particular if you are exposed to it for more than 6 hours per day, leading to eye diseases. There is concern about the effect on MPOD (macular optical pigment density) from blue light, the lowering of which can lead to AMD.

Improving the working environment

There are improvements that can be made in the office environment to reduce eye strain and ensure employees are comfortable at work. Recommended by the siite Blue Light Exposed, they include:

  • Adjust brightness and contrast of screen to reduce glare
  • Regularly clean screens – dust and smudges create glare
  • Avoid using a screen in direct sunlight
  • Adjust your screen – ideally it should be just below eye level and directly in front of you
  • Take a 20 second screen break every 20 minutes

Alongside these measures you should ensure that your employees have a comfortable chair and large enough desk area, as poor posture and seating can exacerbate headaches from eye strain.

We spend a lot of time at screens but there is a wealth of advice, including specific advice on reducing eye discomfort in the office and maintaining eye health.

It is also advised that, apart from ensuring the working environment is optimal, that people go for regular sight checks. This not only ensures that they wear glasses for screen work, should they need them, but any eye conditions are picked up early.

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