Workplace Solutions Eye protection Personal protective equipment

Protecting eyes from strain and fatigue

How can proper eye protection relieve headaches and eye fatigue?


Responding is Jack Padden, vice president of sales and operations, BrandX Safety, Martinsburg, WV.

How often do we think about our eyes? Probably not that often, unless there’s a problem. We may suffer from a headache or overall fatigue after a long day at work and not realize it’s actually tied to our eyes. Many times, a headache indicates pain and fatigue of the eyes, which is often the result of eyestrain. Eyestrain occurs when the muscles in and around our eyes become tired from intense use or straining to focus. The solution can be as simple as upgrading our glasses to a lens that has perfect optics and an anti-scratch coating.

When it comes to our eyes, we have the most perfect camera with which to view the world. Unless there’s a need for corrective lenses, our eyes don’t need anything else to function at maximum efficiency. To function at this level, we need to ensure our eyes aren’t suffering from strain or fatigue. When we put on a pair of safety glasses with perfect optics or a clean lens free of scratches, our eyes register an extra layer of protection and naturally begin to relax. In our industry, we operate in dangerous environments where protection of this delicate organ is critical. Less stress on the eyes means increased comfort and energy – increasing our productivity and satisfaction on the job.

However, if the optics in our eyewear are off-center or if there are imperfections in the lens, they actually have the opposite effect on the eyes. When light passes through low-quality lenses, it causes the refraction angles in the retina to change or bend. This makes our eyes go into overdrive and can cause eyestrain, fatigue and headaches. The layer will bend light prematurely and the eye will not rest. Anything at all that disrupts the path of light causes the eye to work harder. This is why it’s essential to have an anti-scratch coating on safety glasses to prevent such issues. When our eyes attempt to look through a lens that’s scratched, they need to work overtime. Typical safety glasses that don’t have this innovation are easily scratched with the wear and tear of the workplace environment.

Rarely, if ever, do we give much consideration to how the optical clarity of a lens can contribute to injury. Our eyes give us a sense of the world around us and most of the brain is used to process what we see. If the optical center of a lens isn’t perfect, we’re pushing our optic nerves into overdrive, never giving them a chance to rest. Inferior optics in a lens can lead to fatigue and headaches, which can lead to lack of focus and poor decision-making. These factors are often a contributing factor to injury. Lenses with poor optical clarity can cause our optical nerve to have issues calibrating, leading to poor hand-eye coordination and balance, resulting in falls.

As with most things in the safety world, a “one-size-fits-all’ approach doesn’t work. When choosing safety glasses, look beyond fit and frame and focus on clarity and comfort. When you devise your eye protection program, incorporate safety glasses with perfect optics and anti-scratch coatings for superior vision and reduced fatigue and headaches. Integrating this technology ultimately will keep your workforce productive and safe.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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