Nine in 10 British businesses are failing to meet their legal responsibilities to protect their workforce's sight, according to a new study commissioned by the charity Eye Health UK and Vision Express Opticians.
During the average working lifetime squared-eyed Brits spend an eye watering 128,780 hours sitting in front of a screen (that's around 15 years solid). So, it's probably no surprise that 85 per cent of office workers report suffering symptoms of screen fatigue – headaches, eyestrain and problems with close and long-distance vision – after a typical day in the office.
The Health and Safety Display Screen Equipment (DSE) regulations place a legal obligation on all employers to make sure they care for the eye health of staff who regularly use a VDU (computer screen or similar) at work in order to combat the visual stress associated with prolonged screen use.
However, 4 in 10 businesses report having absolutely no eye care policy in place, while regular sight tests, which forms the most basic element of the legislation, are provided by fewer than half (49%) of employers, the study found.
Furthermore, just 49 per cent of employers provide ‘encouragement to take deliberate breaks and pauses when carrying out intensive screen work' as required by the DSE legislation.
David Cartwright, optometrist and chairman of Eye Health UK explains:
“Taking regular breaks during prolonged screen use is vital to keep your eyes healthy. I'd urge all screen users to follow the 20-20-20 rule – look away from the screen every 20 minutes and focus on an object 20 feet away, for 20 seconds. It's a really simple and effective way to minimise screen fatigue yet our research shows only one in five screen users has heard of the 20-20-20 rule and even fewer practice it!”
Medium-sized businesses employing between 50 – 99 staff are particularly poor when it comes to eye care in the workplace with a quarter (26%) failing to meet a single one of the legislative requirements or providing any form of substitute care.
To assist employers in meeting their obligations under the DSE legislation and reduce visual stress in the workplace Eye Health UK and Vision Express are launching The Big Blink.
Five hundred resource packs are being sent to HR teams with guides and checklists to help implement robust eye care policies with further support available from a digital hub www.visionmatters.org.uk/TheBigBlink
Onur Köksal, CEO at Vision Express comments:
“Taking part in the Big Blink is a great first step towards a future commitment to care for your employees eye health. Another is to subscribe to a corporate eye care plan. These are by far the most cost-effective way to meet your legal responsibility to provide free sight tests and any eyewear prescribed solely for VDU work. Our research shows that perceived cost is the biggest barrier to taking up an eyecare plan yet our entry level plan Vision Select is free and open to all businesses.”
“in support of National Eye Health Week, we are offering free eye tests for anyone booking online at www.visionexpress.com.”
The study also found almost one in five (18%) employees have cited symptoms of screen fatigue as a reason for absenteeism.