Maintaining good eye health at work

Reviewed by Dr. Mashood Khan, Head of Clinical Governance

Workplace health surveillance plays a crucial role in promoting a safe and healthy work environment. By systematically monitoring employee health and detecting potential occupational hazards, it helps prevent work-related illnesses, injuries, and accidents. Regular surveillance enables early identification of emerging health issues and facilitates timely interventions, reducing the risk of long-term health complications and associated costs.

Clear and optimal vision is essential for maintaining productivity and safety in the workplace, but often something that is taken for granted. Maintaining good eye health at work means safeguarding your employees’ ability to not only be productive but also to actively reduce the risk of other harm in the workplace. The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) requires PCBUs (persons conducting a business or undertaking) to take all reasonably practicable actions to eliminate or minimise risks to the health and safety of workers (and others that may be at risk from the work being done).

This includes protecting people’s eyes. According to Site Safe New Zealand, workplace eye injuries cost New Zealand more than $3 million annually – a figure which does not consider lost productivity. This article provides tips on how employees can protect their eyes while working and explain why workplace vision testing is a crucial part of providing that protection.

Why is workplace vision testing important?

Some workplaces are dominated by computers, screens, and machines, with employees exposed to extended hours of screen time or high-intensity light. In other settings, airborne particles, dangerous chemicals, or other physical hazards such as using lasers, welding, soldering, and grinding may pose a risk to healthy sight, even where safety measures are implemented. There are various tasks that can take a toll on vision and overall eye health if a few proactive measures are not  taken to mitigate their impacts. This is why workplace vision testing is an important part of a holistic health surveillance program in a wide range of environments.

By undertaking workplace vision testing, potential problems with sight can be identified. Scheduling these regularly ensures compliance with regulations in settings where standards for vision exist such as aviation and transportation. Early signs of eye-related conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) or digital eye strain can also be more readily detected (ComCare Eye Health in the Workplace Guide 2012). Eye examinations can help recognise visual impairments that pose a safety risk in the workplace.

What are the signs that you need workplace vision testing for your employees?

Prioritising eye health addresses potential health, safety and productivity issues caused by visual impairments while also ensuring that employees’ wellbeing is maintained. As a rule, Bodycare recommends vision testing for employees once a year so that any changes in vision can be detected and addressed promptly.

For some occupations, there may be indicators that employees require workplace vision testing more routinely. These signs include:

  • Frequent headaches or eye strain – which can be a sign of uncorrected vision problems.
  • Squinting or difficulty focusing – employees who struggle to see objects clearly, experience blurred vision or have difficulty focusing on tasks.
  • Decreased productivity or increased errors – a decline in effectiveness or efficiency at work could be due to visual impairments impacting employees’ ability to perform duties at their expected capacity.
  • Complaints of dry eyes or discomfort – employees experiencing dry, itchy, red, or irritated eyes.

What are the different types of workplace vision tests?

Workplace vision testing can encompass various examinations tailored to the specific requirements of the industry. Undertaking comprehensive eye testing ensures that employees are equipped with the proper visual acuity to perform their job tasks effectively and safely.

Bodycare’s workplace vision tests consist of examinations that measure the sharpness of an employees’ vision, their ability to distinguish various colours effectively, their depth perception and their peripheral vision. The tests include:

  • Distance vision testing – evaluating an employee’s capacity to perceive objects from a distance based on their ability to identify letters or numbers on the Snellen Chart.
  • Near vision testing – assessing an employee’s ability to see objects clearly at close range based on accuracy in reading a series of letters, numbers, symbols or icons from a Hanks Near Point Vision Chart. This allows the test to simulate real-world tasks that require good near vision, such as reading and using digital devices.
  • Colour vision testing – assessing an employee’s ability to distinguish between different hues using the Ishihara Colour Test. This test is performed with and without any existing vision correction to ensure visual acuity is accurately assessed.

How should you prepare for a workplace vision test?

Preparation may vary depending on whether your workplace sits within any number of the industries which Bodycare services. To help employees prepare for workplace vision testing, consider the following tips:

  • Communicate: Inform your employees about upcoming vision tests, explaining the purpose and benefits. Address any concerns they may have and promote a positive and supportive environment.
  • Schedule convenient appointments: Allow flexibility in scheduling appointments to minimise disruptions to work routines. Vision testing takes 10-15 minutes per employee which allows for a thorough and efficient vision exam without too much disruption to the employee’s work schedule.
  • Encourage honest reporting: Encourage employees to report any existing eye problems or concerns beforehand can help ensure more accurate and comprehensive assessments during the testing.
  • Provide information on test procedures: Familiarise employees with the types of tests they may undergo. This reduces any anxiety they may have around testing and helps them feel more at ease.

Testing can be done onsite for convenience and left in the capable hands of Bodycare’s qualified occupational health professional who is trained and experienced in providing comprehensive vision exams.

How can employees maintain good eye health at work?

In addition to workplace vision testing, implementing the following strategies can help employees maintain good eye health:

  • Take regular breaks from staring at screens by using the 20-20-20 rule: for every 20 minutes that employees use a digital device, they should take a 20-second break to look at objects 20 feet (or 6 metres) away.
  • Optimise workspace ergonomics: ensure proper lighting, adjust brightness and contrast in monitor settings to reduce glare, adjust the font size and colour and position screens at eye level to alleviate strain on the eyes and neck.
  • Use protective eyewear: employers must provide appropriate protective eyewear, such as safety goggles, to employees working in hazardous environments where eye injuries are a risk. Employees have a responsibility to follow safety procedures to protect themselves.
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle: eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated and exercising your eyes all can go a long way to reducing eye fatigue, strain and other visual impairments brought on by deficiencies. This strengthens and improves your eye muscles, as well as keeping your eyes lubricated and healthy.

Why choose Bodycare for workplace vision testing?

Bodycare is a natural choice for workplace vision testing due to its experienced team of occupational health professionals, clinical governance framework, quality control checks and balances, and technology and software systems.

The team of occupational health professionals is highly trained and experienced in providing comprehensive vision exams, adhering to strict clinical governance standards, and ensuring that services meet quality and patient care standards.

Bodycare can help you put the focus back on the visual and eye health of your employees. It is not something you want your workplace to overlook. Contact Bodycare today.



ComCare – Eye health in the workplace

Hanks Eye Charts

Ishihara Charts

National Library of Medicine

Site Safe New Zealand – Eye Safety

The Fred Hollows Foundation

Vision Eye Institute

WorkSafe – Protecting your workers’ eyes