To Prevent Vision Problems, Look at the Work Place

March 21, 2002
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 ([email protected])

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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