To Prevent Vision Problems, Look at the Work Place

With more than 50 million American workers suffering from computer-related eye and vision problems, Workplace Eye Health and Safety Month is a good time to focus attention on the computer work station.

With more than 50 million American workers suffering from computer-related eye and vision problems, Workplace Eye Health and Safety Month is a good time to focus attention on what may be the most common work environment today - the computer work station.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 75 million Americans work on computers every day - in offices, at home and on laptops while traveling in planes, trains and automobiles. The American Optometric Association (AOA) believes that upwards of 70 percent of these workers have some form of eye or vision related problem. These problems either currently affect or can potentially affect the productivity of many of these workers.

"Computer Vision Syndrome, or CVS, is a real issue," according to Sharon Middendorf, Optics Engineer for 3M. "It covers a range of issues such as eye fatigue, sore or dry eyes and headaches related to computer monitor use. Left unchecked, these issues can make it more difficult for workers to do their jobs."

There are several key factors in the work environment that can cause eyes to work harder. First is the glare reflecting off the computer screen and other surfaces, masking or washing out information. What you see on your computer monitor is not as crisp as what you see on paper. Next, is office lighting hitting the eyes causing irritation and squinting? Third is the positioning of the computer screen in relation to the work documents and the worker.

A chief culprit in CVS is "glare" - the light reflected off the computer screen, as well as the office lighting hitting the eyes and light reflecting from other sources in the workstation or the immediate area. "As Dr. James E. Sheedy, OD, PhD, clinical professor, University of California - Berkeley states, 'the eyes lead the body,' and when you have glare on your monitor or work surface, you often put yourself in awkward body positions to see around the glare," says Middendorf.

According to the American Optometric Association, it can take just two hours a day in front of the computer to put some people at risk for CVS.

In recognition of Workplace Eye Health and Safety Month, 3M offers 10 basic tips for stronger eyes:

  • Get a regular eye exam and wear corrective lenses if necessary (be sure to tell your eye specialist that you use a computer at work).
  • Add an AOA-accepted anti-glare computer filter to your monitor.
  • Blink frequently to help keep eyes moist, particularly if you wear contact lenses.
  • Occasionally cup your hands over closed eyes for 30-60 seconds and take deep slow breaths to relax.
  • Adjust your monitor distance. Position your monitor at least 20 inches from your eyes.
  • Adjust monitor angle to reduce reflective glare. Straight up and down is best. Use document holders that attach to the sides of the monitor and angle them accordingly.
  • Adjust your monitor height. A good guideline is to arrange the monitor so that when sitting relaxed, you can look over the top of the monitor.
  • Relocate your computer monitor from in front of windows and bright light sources.
  • Use drapes, shades and blinds.
  • Clean the screen. Staring through dust, dirt and fingerprints on your computer screen makes the image more difficult to see.

edited by Sandy Smith (ssmith@penton.com)

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