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March is Workplace Eye Wellness Month. Prevent Blindness, a non-profit organization focused on lifetime eye health, reminds us that preventable eye injuries are a common occurrence. Some injuries permanently affect sight or cause blindness.
There were 15,730 work-related eye injuries involving days away from work in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Proper eye protection minimizes risk of significant eye injuries. Many injuries occur when employees either neglect to wear safety gear or it is not properly fitted.
In certain work settings, the most essential preventive measure is to consistently wear eye protection designed for the job. For example, employees who work in an area with airborne particles, flying objects or dust should wear safety glasses with side protection (side shields). If working near hazardous radiation (e.g., welding, lasers, fiber optics) special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shields or helmets should be worn.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to ensure the safety of all employees. Eye and face protection must be provided to protect against chemical, environmental, radiological, or mechanical irritants and hazards. OSHA also requires that employers provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and provide training to ensure proper use.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends eye protection for health care workers, first responders and others who are at risk of acquiring infectious diseases via ocular exposure. Viruses and bacteria can enter the body through eye mucous membranes (conjunctiva) and cause conditions such as conjunctivitis and systemic infections.
The average American office worker spends seven hours a day on a computer, according to the American Optometric Association. Employees who use digital screens such as computer monitors, tablets and smartphones are at increased risk of digital eye strain. Symptoms of eye strain include sore or irritated eyes, blurred vision and headaches.
Here are some tips for employees:
In other eye-related developments, employers with commercial drivers and independent operators will be responsible for complying with a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Qualifications of Drivers; Vision Standard final rule effective March 22, 2022. It allows commercial drivers who do not satisfy the distant visual acuity standard with corrective lenses, the field of vision standard, or both, to be physically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle without obtaining an FMCSA exemption (87 FR 3390).
The standard eliminates the need for a federal vision exemption program and allows certified medical examiners, in consultation with an ophthalmologist or optometrist and utilizing a new Vision Evaluation Report (Form MCSA-5871), to determine whether to grant a Medical Examiner’s Certificate (MEC), Form MCSA-5876, for up to one year. WorkCare’s FMCSA-certified medical examiners are prepared to manage these cases.
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