Eye Problems

Risks of long-term harm

Some studies suggest that working at a VDU may increase health risks. For example, there may be:
  • An increased risk of seizure in those with photosensitive epilepsy
  • An increased risk of developing cataracts
  • Worsening of short-sightedness and less specific deterioration of eyesight
However, the majority of the research doesn't show any permanent health effects so it is likely that if there are health risks from a VDU, the risks are very small.In some jobs there are clear risks to the eyes from injury by particles or chemicals in the environment. If you work, for example, at machinery or where chemicals are released into the environment (for example, in mining, petroleum & oil refineries, chemical manufacturing & handling or laboratories).

Check with your health and safety officer about protecting your eyes. You can find out how much you know by taking a workplace eye safety quiz. Follow Prevent Blindness America's 10 top tips to prevent injury.
  • Always wear safety goggles when these are recommended, or face shields. Goggles form a seal around the eyes and stop objects, shards or particles getting into the eye. If ventilation holes are partially covered, goggles will also stop chemicals from splashing into the eye. Prescription glasses are not a substitute for safety glasses unless they meet the appropriate safety standards, usually shown on the frames with a safety eye wear logo. Contact lenses offer no protection
  • Always work with machine guards in place and following rules about working with chemicals
  • Know where the eye-bath station is in your workplace and what should be done is someone has an eye injury or contamination. In some places there are specially designed eye-wash sinks. Alternatively there should be portable squeezy bottles containing eyewashes. Its important to wash the eyes for a prolonged period, at least 15 minutes when there has been contact with caustic chemicals
First aid for eyes

First assess the situation quickly and get someone to close down all risks such as machinery, or move others from a contaminated area.
  • Cuts to the eye
    • Don't wash the eye or try to remove anything stuck in the eye
    • Shield the eye with a plastic cup
    • Get urgent medical advice
  • Dirt or tiny particles in the eye:
    • Use an eye bath to wash the eye copiously and flush out the particles
    • Don't rub the eye
    • Get medical advice if pain or particles persist
  • Chemical contamination
    • Flush the eye with an eye bath solution (or water if eye solution is not to hand) for at least 15 minutes and at least until you have had medical advice about the particular chemical
    • Get urgent medical advice
  • Trauma to the eye:
    • Gently apply a cold pack to the area around the eye but don't put pressure on the eye itself
    • Get urgent medical advice, especially if there is pain, visual problems or blood or pus in the eye