Worker health and wellness Injury prevention Eye protection Worker Health and Wellness

ILO calls for collaboration to protect workers’ eye health


Geneva — Occupational safety and health programs should identify and assess the on-the-job risks to eye health, the International Labor Organization says.

In collaboration with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, ILO recently released the Eye Health and the World of Work report, in which the United Nations agency calls for enhanced worker protections.

The report claims that better workplace safety records, improved worker well-being and increased productivity are all benefits of supporting eye health in the workplace.

An estimated 3.5 million occupational eye injuries occur every year, an ILO press release states.

In 2020, around 143 million working-age people had moderate to severe vision impairment, while another 18 million were experiencing blindness, according to the report. These figures suggest an estimated annual global productivity loss of $411 billion because of vision impairment.

The most common eye-related hazards fall into four categories:
Nonionized radiation: Solar (outdoor workers), artificially generated light sources (welding, steel making and glass making), computers and indoor lighting systems (office workers), and specialists using highly technical applications such as lasers and germicidal lamps (health care and manufacturing)
Ergonomic: Desk jobs (office workers)
Mechanical: Grinding, abrasion, drilling, blasting and other fractionating processes (forestry, resource extraction, construction and metalworking), and dusty/windy outdoor work (quarrying)
Chemical and biological: Liquid splashes (agricultural pesticide applications, health care and chemical processing industries), as well as fomite transfer, cough and sneeze droplets, and aerosols from bioinfectious substances

Last year, delegates of the ILO adopted a resolution that adds “a safe and healthy working environment” to the agency’s framework on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The fundamental conventions support worker eye health and list three key aspects to be considered in this area:

  • Reduce risks to eyesight at work
  • Ensure access to eye care services
  • Promote good eye health throughout the working lives of all workers

ILO calls for “strong collaboration with public health players beyond the workplace” to promote lifelong eye health.

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