Distractions an eye opener

IF more than one of your employees suffers from eye complaints, perhaps a fish tank could help.

According to practising optometrist and Australian Optometrist Association WA division president Michael Doyle, if more than one employee is suffering eye problems it could be because of incorrect lighting and humidity, both of which can often be rectified by simple options, including bringing in a fish tank.

“If the humidity drops then you get what is called dry eyes because you are not blinking regularly. A good way to find out would be to talk to contact lens wearers. Do they notice dry eyes? If they all complain, then the humidity is probably too low,” Mr Doyle said.

“There’s not a lot you can do, but one thing is to bring in a fish tank. It acts as a humidifier. The water will dry out and you’ll find that the tank evaporates and you’ll be refilling it on a regular basis.”

He said office lighting could also reduce the efficient use of the eye.

“You need to have soft light around you and the monitor needs to have a soft screen to reduce the glare,” Mr Doyle said.

“A simple way to fix it would be to remove one of the fluoro tubes in the lighting or to put a diffuser on your computer screen.”

He said while there was no evidence linking computer use to specific eye problems, there were simple techniques and exercises that could be incorporated into our working days to alleviate eye pain and associated problems.

Mr Doyle said the set up of most work stations was not designed for the best use of the eyes.

Employers and employees should accommodate simple work station practices to alleviate eye problems, he said.

“If you put your arm straight out and extend it so that it just touches the monitor then that’s about right. It gives the eyes plenty of breathing space and room to zoom in and out,” Mr Doyle said.

Most eye complaints by computer users had their foundation in the length of time the user was required to look at the screen.

“It’s the focal distance rather than the screen; if you stare at it for an extended length of time you experience problems. Managers shouldn’t put their computer in the office corner,” Mr Doyle said.

“They are trying to minimise distractions but you want those distractions because you glance away from the screen.”

WorkSafe senior ergonomist Rod Powell said computer users had become more aware of existing eye problems.

“People say: ‘I never needed glasses until I worked with a computer’. There is no definitive evidence that that’s the case. If an existing defect is there a computer will make that more noticeable. You tend not to notice these things until you constantly look at a fixed distance,” Mr Powell said.

Mr Doyle said people should only look at a computer screen for a fixed period of 15 to 20 minutes.

“The eye muscles become fixed. It’s a bit like being cross-legged on the floor for a long period of time. You get uncomfortable but it’s not so much the blood flow, it’s the fixed position,” he said.

Mr Doyle said eye tests were covered by Medicare and the majority of optometrists bulk billed.

“My advice is that, if you can’t concentrate without eye strain, get them exam-ined. Up to 96 per cent of optometrists bulk bill,” he said. “If you are in the workforce and under 45 I would recommend an eye test every five years. If you are over 45, I would suggest every two years.”

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