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Picture this: every day approximately a thousand people in North America, 200 of them in Canada, sustain a work-related eye injury. Add to that the countless more who suffer from eyestrain and fatigue from the widespread use of computers, tablets and smartphones in the workplace, and the numbers can be daunting. The good news is that with care and protection 90% of these injuries are preventable, according to CNIB.
Eye injuries can cause lost time at work, serious vision loss and, in some cases, permanent blindness. They can also cost your organization by affecting productivity, profitability, competitiveness and employee morale.
Employers are required to provide a safe work environment. This includes having safe work procedures in place, informing workers of any/all hazards of the job and providing training to workers to ensure they can perform their work safely. There are also steps you can take to keep your eyes healthy, prevent them from injury and protect your vision.
Visit an eye doctor for a comprehensive dilated eye exam to ensure you are seeing your best, that your eyes are healthy and to check for signs of damage or eye disease.
Eat a diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, to help keep your eyes healthy. Fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut is also good for your eye health.
Wash your hands thoroughly before handling your contact lenses and clean your lenses properly to avoid the risk of infection.
Eye Injury Protection
Be aware of hazards in your workplace. Before you start to work, clear your workspace of any potential hazards that could cause you harm such as protruding pipes and wires or objects hanging from ceilings. When there is a risk of eye injury, use proper eye protection.
Most industrial eye injuries can be prevented by wearing the right protection for the job. Protective eyewear includes non-prescription and prescription safety glasses, goggles, face shields, welding helmets and full-face respirators and eye guards.
Protective eyewear used in Canada must have the CSA mark on it to show that it meets Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards. Choose protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses; they are impact and scratch resistant.
Inspect plastic visors or protectors for scratches that may limit vision or cracks that can weaken the structural strength.
Wear eyewear that was specifically designed for the task at hand and matches the hazard: goggles that protect you from dust may not protect you from splashes or radiation.
Ensure the equipment fits properly; that it is snug but not uncomfortable.
Wear your safety glasses under other protection you may use, such as a welding helmet or face shield, to avoid debris that can get under the shield if you lift the visor.
If you wear contact lenses, always wear protective eyewear on the job site to prevent dust and other particles from getting under the lens and causing irritations or infections. Clean your lenses with water or a lens-cleaning solution to float dirt away, rather than scratching it into the lens.
If you work in the sun or use equipment that exposes you to ultraviolet radiation you should also use appropriate eye protection to protect your eyes. Look for glasses or lenses that block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation.
Follow the safety procedures for your workplace and know the location of eyewash stations and first-aid equipment and how to use them.
Eyestrain and Fatigue Prevention
Working on your computer, smartphone or other electronic device for a long period of time, as office workers are prone to do, can cause eyestrain and fatigue. When you are focusing on a screen for an extended period you can forget to blink. This can make your eyes dry and result in blurred vision and headaches.
There are things you can do to reduce the strain on your eyes:
Your eyes are among your most important, and most vulnerable, parts of your body. And with a little care and diligent protection you can prevent injury to, and strain on, your eyes and preserve your vision for years to come.
Source: Segments adapted from CNIB
Exposure to noise, too often, is more than just annoying and disruptive - it can permanently damage our hearing. Occupational noise is one of the most common health hazards in the workplace and can affect people differently, depending on how susceptible they are.
Low or moderate noise levels that may be found in an office, school or computer room, are most likely to cause annoyance and stress and may make it difficult for people to talk to and hear one another. Louder, "industrial-grade" noises, which may be found in a manufacturing facility, on a farm or even in a cafeteria, can cause permanent hearing loss.
How loud is too loud?
Occupational exposure limits (OELs) for noise are usually given as the maximum length of exposure permitted for various noise levels measured in decibels (dBA). The noise exposure limits vary within the different jurisdictions in Canada. CCOHS has more information on Occupational Exposure Limits for Workplace Noise in Canada on its website.
Even without technical measurements however, certain tell-tale signs can help you determine if your workplace has a noise problem. Do people have to raise their voices? After a shift, do their ears ring, and do they need to play their car radios louder than on the way to work? After working in a noisy environment for a few years, do the employees find it hard to understand conversations at parties, restaurants or other crowded places?
Health effects of exposure to noise
We immediately think about noise affecting our hearing but it can be blamed for other health effects as well. Though it's difficult to pinpoint noise as the culprit in some cases, researchers believe it may act as a general stressor and cause some symptoms that are totally unrelated to hearing - such as changes to blood pressure (e.g. high blood pressure) and heart rate. A noisy environment can affect how a worker breathes and sleeps and, generally, can have a negative effect on the worker's physical and mental health.
Hearing related health effects range from tinnitus (a ringing or buzzing in the ear), to temporary hearing loss that may improve over time in a quiet place, to permanent hearing loss. A person who is exposed to noise for long periods of time or is exposed often, or at high frequencies, may experience permanent hearing loss. Also known as permanent threshold shift, permanent hearing loss gets worse for as long as the noise exposure continues. Noise-induced permanent hearing loss is a cumulative process. Initially, noise-induced hearing loss is most pronounced at a frequency of 4000 Hz, but it spreads over other frequencies over time and as the noise level increases.
Sometimes, just one short burst of extremely loud noise such as a gun shot can cause acoustic trauma that damages hearing.
Besides noise, other factors that affect a worker's hearing may include vibration (e.g. from a jack hammer), the worker's age, certain medications and diseases, and exposure to "ototoxic" chemicals, such as toluene and carbon disulfide. Exposures to noise outside of work (e.g. recreational activities such as playing in a rock band, skeet shooting) are also factors that contribute to the person's overall noise exposure.
What can be done?
A noise assessment and employee survey can help determine where the noise is coming from, how much noise there is, who is exposed and for how long. The most obvious and effective solution to noise, of course, is to eliminate it, but that's not always feasible in the workplace. The next best option is to control noise at its source by lowering it to acceptable levels with engineering controls. Administrative controls, and the use of appropriate personal hearing protection are also used.
Engineering controls substitute or modify the noise source itself, or the workplace environment (e.g. enclosing the noise source, using mufflers on equipment etc). Administrative controls involve rotating work schedules, or changing production schedules, to keep noise exposure time within acceptable limits. Where technology cannot adequately control the problem, workers should wear appropriate personal hearing protection such as ear muffs or plugs, but only as an interim measure until noise is controlled at the source.
Controlling noise and preventing work-related hearing loss is essential. Once your hearing is lost - it's gone forever.
Workplace noise, OSH Answers
Occupational Exposure Limits for Workplace Noise in Canada, CCOHS
Noise Control in Industry: A Basic Guide, CCOHS
Preventing Hearing Loss From Workplace Noise ecourse, CCOHS
Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention, NIOSH
Listen up: Chemical Exposure and Hearing Loss in the Workplace, Free CCOHS webinar
The numbers tell the story. In 2012, 977 workers in Canada lost their lives to a disease or injury they incurred from work-related causes. There are close to three work-related deaths each day in Canada - each one leaving a trail of pain for the families impacted by the loss of a husband, wife, father, mother, brother, sister, son or daughter. And most - if not all - are fatalities that could have been prevented.
To honour those workers across the country whose lives have been lost, who have been injured or disabled on the job, or suffer from occupational diseases, April 28th has been set aside as the National Day of Mourning. The Day of Mourning is an opportunity not only to remember, but also for employees and employers to publicly renew their commitment to preventing work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths and making workplaces safe and healthy for all.
This day of observance was established when the Workers Mourning Day Act was passed in December 1990. Since that time, various events are organized each year by labour organizations across the country to express remembrance for the family, friends, and colleagues who have suffered in carrying out workplace duties. The Canadian flag on Parliament Hill will fly at half-mast. Workers will light candles, don ribbons and black armbands, and observe moments of silence.
Over the years, the day of observance known in most other countries as the Workers' Memorial Day, has spread to over 80 countries and is now an international day of remembrance of workers killed in incidents at work, or by diseases caused by work. In addition, the International Labour Organization (ILO) celebrates the World Day for Safety and Health at Work on April 28th to promote the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases globally.
Listen to Steve Horvath, President at CCOHS discuss the National Day of Mourning and its significance to workplaces in Canada, and around the world.
Listen to this nine-minute podcast: Workplace Injuries: A Personal Story.
You can wear your support with a Day of Mourning commemorative pin. Or, you can download and display the free posters in your workplace. Printed posters are also available at a cost.
Update your Facebook page with the free Day of Mourning cover images.
The CCOHS website has more information about the National Day of Mourning.
For further statistical information, visit AWCBC National Work Injuries Statistics Program.
Find a Steps for Life walk in your community.
This month's Health and Safety To Go! podcasts share information about bed bugs, and feature an encore presentation of a Shirley Hickman's story of the loss of her son to a workplace tragedy.
Feature Podcast: Bed Bugs: Have Bite, Will Travel
With bed bug infestations on the rise, learn more about what they are, how to prevent infestation and what to do if you find a bed bug at your worksite.
The podcast runs 7:08 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Encore Podcast: Shirley Hickman - A Mother's Story
Shirley Hickman shares her personal story of how losing her son in a workplace tragedy affected her life and inspired her to create the Threads of Life organization, which supports workers and their families who are affected by life-altering workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths.
The podcast runs 9:23 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips, and insights into the health, safety, and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience... or on the go!
See the complete list of podcast topics. Better yet, subscribe to the series on iTunes and don't miss a single episode.
While there is growing awareness of the role that the workplace plays in affecting our mental wellness, employees can also take steps towards promoting their own mental well-being by building a strong resilience to stress - a process referred to as mental fitness.
By actively practicing mental fitness, we can elevate our health and work performance, while effectively managing varying levels of stress:
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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
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