According to the Optometrists Association Australia (OAA), computer eye fatigue - vision problems and deterioration of eye health from computer use - is becoming more common as workers continue to work longer hours and rely on computers in the office. The Association has recommended tips on how to improve eye health.
Office workers comprise one of the highest risk categories of computer eye fatigue with some studies indicating that 35–48% of these workers suffer from the problem.
The Association says the common symptoms of computer eye fatigue include:
- sore, red eyes associated with computer use
- excessively tired eyes, not in keeping with the rest of the worker's body
- headaches that become more severe while focusing at a computer screen
- dry, irritated eyes or reliance on eye drops
- blurred distance vision after work
- a tendency to squint or lean towards the computer screen
- difficulty changing focus between the computer, paperwork, and looking up and talking to colleagues or clients.
Tips to maintain eye health
The OAA recommends the following tips for workers for optimum eye health in the office:
- taking regular two minute breaks from close computer work throughout the day
- ensuring the lighting in the office is even and without glare. See below for more detail on lighting. If lighting is unsatisfactory, this issue should be raised with your health and safety rep.
- align the reading material correctly so the worker does not have to strain his/her eyes while working
- adjusting their computer monitor so the top is level with their eyes
- ensuring their glasses/lens prescription is appropriate for close computer work
- being aware of symptoms they may experience during or after computer work.
Lighting for VDUs/screens
Screens should be placed to the side of the light source/s, not directly underneath. If possible, desks should be sited between rows of lights. If the lighting is fluorescent strip lighting, the sides of the desks should be parallel with the lights. Screens should not be placed near windows but if this is unavoidable neither the screen nor the operator should face the window.
If the screen is well away from windows, there are no other sources of bright light and prolonged desk-work is the norm, a low level of service light of 300 lux should be used. If there are strongly contrasting light levels, then a moderate level of lighting of 400 - 500 lux may be desirable but high quality anti-glare screens may be necessary.
Glare and reflection
It is important to detect the presence of glare and reflection. To determine whether there is glare from overhead lights the seated worker should hold an object such as a book above the eyes at eyebrow level and establish whether the screen image becomes clearer in the absence of overhead glare. To detect whether there are reflections from the desk surface the worker should hold the book above the surface and assess the change in reflected glare from the screen.
A number of ways are available to eliminate or reduce the influence of these reflections:
- Tilting the screen so that the reflections are directed below eye level.
- Purchasing a screen with matt or light diffusing surfaces.
- Covering the screen with a light diffusing surface or anti-glare screen.
- A negative contrast screen (dark characters on light background) will reduce the influence of these reflections.
If the worker experiences eye discomfort when using a bright screen the following adjustments should be made:
- Turning the screen brightness down to a comfortable level.
- Looking away into the distance in order to rest the eyes for a short while every ten minutes or so.
- Changing the text and background colours. Recommended are black characters on white or yellow background, or yellow on black, white on black, white on blue and green on white. Avoid red and green and yellow on white.
- From Comcare - Eye Health in the Workplace [pdf] and also a Guide for PCBUs on Eye Health
- Computer Eye Strain: 10 steps for relief - from a company website, but useful information nonetheless
- From the ABC Health & Wellbeing site: Can looking at a computer screen affect your eyesight?
- From WebMed: Information on Computer Vision Syndrome