Report: 800,000 Work-Related Eye Injuries Annually Cost Employers Billions

According the Vision Council of America, a not-for-profit trade organization in Alexandria, Va., the American workplace is rife with eye injuries and vision problems--most of which are preventable--and they're causing employers to see adverse effects on their bottom lines. In its new report "Vision in Business," VCA says vision disorders result in a marked decrease in productivity and cost businesses an estimated $8 billion annually.

The report examines the prevalence and cost of vision problems as well as the role of preventive vision care in improving the productivity and efficiency of the American workplace. It also shows that job-related eye injuries, computer eye strain, and other vision problems are costly for employers and employees in a wide range of industries and occupations. Employees in professions ranging from engineers, construction workers, stockbrokers, and software developers to accountants and administrative assistants are among those most at risk for developing vision problems that affect their work performance.

“I see patients every day with vision problems that could impact their work performance if not corrected,” said ophthalmologist Elaine G. Hathaway, M.D. “In addition to refractive errors, eye injuries, and computer eye strain, eye diseases such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy can impair vision if not detected and treated early.”

The report identifies vision problems as the second most prevalent health problem in the country, affecting more than 120 million people. Other specific findings include:

  • An estimated 11 million Americans have uncorrected vision problems, ranging from refractive errors (near- or far-sightedness) to sight-threatening diseases such as glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration.
  • There are nearly 800,000 work-related eye injuries each year, 90 percent of which are preventable.
  • Nearly 90 percent of those who use a computer at least three hours a day suffer vision problems associated with computer-related eye strain.
  • Employers gain as much as $7 for every $1 spent on vision coverage.

VCA’s report also highlights recent research which finds the annual financial burden of major adult vision disorders exceeds $50 billion. Specifically, there is a $35.4 billion drain on the U.S. economy with an additional $15.9 billion borne by individuals with vision problems and their caregivers.

“The good news is that because of these high costs, healthy vision is increasingly being recognized as an important health issue in the workplace,” said Ed Greene, CEO of VCA. In fact, the federal government has set a precedent by adding vision coverage to its new health plan which launched in November 2006.

Stressing the importance that employers and employees make healthy vision a priority, VCA offers advice to both groups:

For Employers:

  • Offer vision coverage as part of a health care package.
  • Ensure a safe working environment with mandatory eye protection as needed.
  • Encourage regular eye exams for employees.

Tips for Employees:

  • When working on a computer take a 20 second break every 20 minutes and look at something at least 20 feet away.
  • Those who wear glasses should talk to their eyecare professional about anti-reflective lenses to reduce glare, eye strain and fatigue.
  • Wear protective eyewear that meets the approval of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which will be clearly marked “ANSI Z87.”

VCA urges employees to take an active part in maintaining healthy vision by scheduling regular eye exams. Permanent vision loss is not a normal part of aging, and many vision-threatening conditions have no early warning signs. Eye exams can also detect other serious health problems including diabetes and glaucoma. For a copy of the full report and additional information on protecting your vision, visit www.checkyearly.com.

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