How to encourage employees to look after their eyes

Genes, age, and even medical conditions are often to blame for the condition of our eyesight, but did you know there are many other factors that can also make an impact? Tasks such as computer work, working in the sun and driving can all put a strain on the eyes.

As an employer, there is quite a lot you can be doing to encourage your employees to look after their eyesight, both to benefit them and the business. So here are some suggestions to do your bit to help encourage good eye health for employees in different types of job roles.

Office-based employees
In an office-based business, to prevent lasting damage on an employee’s eyes, their workstation needs to have suitable lighting conditions, with the screen well positioned and adjusted individually. The HSE’s booklet on Display Screen Equipment (DSE0 usage has useful advice for employers to assess the workstation is set-up correctly.

Employees who stare at a computer screen for long spells are at risk of suffering tired eyes, discomfort and temporary short-sightedness leading to headaches. This can lead to a reduction in quality of work, or the employee having to take time off due to headaches.

Here are some suggestions to encourage better habits and more screen free time:

  • Encourage managers to plan daily, or weekly, collaborative meetings with teams on projects, rather than sitting at workstations exchanging emails
  • Encourage regular breaks – preferably a five-minute break every hour. Creating a rest break area including exercise equipment can give employees something else to do other than look at their mobiles when taking breaks. The exercise will also help improve the blood flow which can also affect eye sight, and naturally improve productivity levels. Find more hints and tips on encouraging employees to fit exercise into their working lives here
  • As part of an induction for a new employee provide advice on adopting good posture and correct work station set up, importance of breaks and information on reporting any issues that may arise. A good health and safety policy often covers all of this.
  • Encourage employees to get regular eye tests. It’s worth knowing that, if your employees use DSE’s for a significant part of their normal work (i.e. daily for continuous periods of an hour or more), as an employer you are required to supply eye and eye sight tests on request.

Eyesight is of course very important for drivers, they need to meet a minimum requirement to be fit for work or risk losing their jobs – so if you do employ drivers who no longer meet this minimum requirement you may lose an employee. These requirements include regular eye tests. For holders of category C and D licences tests are required every five years, while private licence holders will need to have tests every 10 to 15 years. Fork lift drivers are also required to meet the same minimal requirements.

Although it is the driver’s responsibility to organise these eye tests, an employer can encourage regular eye tests as part of their employment;

  • Upon employment, request an eye test to assure a driver meets the minimum requirements
  • On their employee file, note this date and the date their next test is due. You can then bring it to their attention as part of an employee review at the due time
  • Provide company hats, and even sun glasses to prevent UV exposure from damaging their eyes. Sunglasses with the CE mark and/or British Standard BS EN ISO 12312-2 are made to the necessary safety requirements. Branded hats could also offer a marketing opportunity for the business.

Outside workers
Like drivers, employees working outside are at risk of UV damage to their eyes, as well as debris from construction, gardening, and other physical jobs. Dust and debris can cause scratches on the cornea, causing lasting damage if not treated. Providing the correct Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for their job in their welcome packages could reduce the chances of these incidents occurring. Encouraging regular shaded breaks and planning their workload to include these can give their eyes a break from the UV rays.

Vision Matters’ National Eye Health Week promotes the importance of eye health and the need for regular sight tests for all. After all 1.8 million people in the UK are living with sight loss. For 53% of these, a simple sight test and new spectacles could really help.*

So whatever the employee job role it really does make sense to encourage regular eye tests. Not only can they pick up the need to wear glasses, they can also detect illnesses like Diabetes, high blood pressure, Hypertension and Tumours which can seriously impact an employee’s health and their ability to attend work.

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Have you recently introduced any initiatives that have made a difference or had any employee issues that you think may be related to your eye care? Do let us know on LinkedIn and Twitter using #visionmatters.

This content originally appeared on Benenden’s workplace hub where employers can find a range of related articles to help with their health and wellbeing strategy.