Because of the increased use of digital technology in the workplace, eyestrain may be one of the fastest-growing occupational health and safety hazards; however, it is probably one of the least addressed. Studies have shown that eyestrain or issues with vision occur in over ½ to ¾ of people working with computers. NIOSH believes that is may have already surpassed carpel tunnel syndrome as the top computer-related workplace physical complaint.
What is eyestrain? Symptoms include such simple things as redness, tired, watery, burning or itchy eyes, and dryness, to more serious issues like blurred or double vision, color perception change, conjunctiva edema and decrease visual efficiency. Eyestrain can manifest itself as headaches, neck and shoulder pain, eye pain, physical fatigue and decrease accuracy of work. If such complaints continue, an individual should seek medical attention.
The best way to treat eyestrain is to take preventive measures before it happens. One of the simplest things you can do to prevent eyestrain is to remember to blink. During sustained periods of focus on an object such as computer screen, people often forget to blink, limiting tear production. The reduced moisture can cause initial irritation which can lead to other problems.
Another way to prevent eyestrain is to practice the 20/20/20 rule. The principle of this rule is to rest your eyes every 20 minutes by looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. It might be necessary to set an alarm to remind you it has been 20 minutes until you have developed the habit of taking eye breaks away from your work.
Proper lighting is another important consideration in preventing eyestrain. OSHA offers many guidelines for appropriate illumination and ways to minimize glare. Proper placement of the item being viewed is equally important. For example, it is most comfortable to view a computer when looking downward, approximately 15-20 degrees (4-5 inches) below eye level as measured from the center of the screen. Additionally, the item of focus should be between 20-28 inches away from the eyes.
Few people are aware that the color temperature of your computer display can cause or reduce eyestrain. Color temperature describes the spectrum of visible light emitted by a color display. Blue light is short-wavelength visible light associated more with eyestrain than longer wavelength hues, such as orange and red. Use the displays function buttons to reduce the amount of blue light emitted by a color display can help reduce strain and improve viewing comfort.
Adjustments of computer stations are part of a comprehensive ergonomic evaluation. Emilcott can provide workplace ergonomic evaluations to help employees dealing with eyestrain.