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Employers short-sighted when it comes to eyecare in the workplace

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Employers short-sighted when it comes to eyecare in the workplace

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[1].

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)[2]. 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[3]

The Health and Safety Display Screen Equipment (DSE) regulations[4] 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[5], 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'[6] 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

The resources also share simple strategies that all screen users can follow to help minimise their risk of screen fatigue[7] and as part of the initiative's launch during National Eye Health Week (23 - 29 September) employers are being encouraged to participate in The Big Blink at 11am on Fri-eye-day 27 September when all screen users look up from their screen, focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds and then repeat every 20 minutes to help prevent future screen fatigue.

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"

The study also found almost one in five (18%) employees have cited symptoms of screen fatigue as a reason for absenteeism.


For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Rachel Robson National Eye Health Week Press Office

Tel: 07743 227977  Email:  Twitter: @myvisionmatters

Notes to editors

About Eye Health UK

Eye Health UK is a register charity [registered charity number 1086146]

About Vision Express info about corporate eye care plans

[1]Q1.Vision Matters survey of 250 employers conducted by Opinion Matters between 30.08.19 - 03.09.19

[2] Eye Health UK screen smart report

[3] Q5. Vision Matters survey of 1,008 office workers conducted by Opinion Matters between 30.08.19 - 03.09.19 . 61% of respondents say they regularly suffer tired eyes, 45% suffer headaches, 36% suffer neck ache, almost a third (30%) suffer sore eyes, 20% suffer itchy eyes, one in five suffer blurred vision, 11% suffer red eyes, one in 20 experience double vision.


[5]Q2.Vision Matters survey of 250 employers conducted by Opinion Matters between 30.08.19 - 03.09.19

[6] Q1. Vision Matters survey of 250 employers conducted by Opinion Matters between 30.08.19 - 03.09.19

[7] symptoms of screen fatigue include:

-         Tired eyes. Muscles around the eye, like any others, can get tired from continued use. Concentrating on a screen for extended periods can cause headaches and lead to concentration difficulties.

-         Blurry vision. Gazing at the same distance for an extended period can cause your focus to spasm or ‘lock up'. This will cause your vision to blur temporarily when you look away from the screen.

-         Dry eyes. Studies consistently show that people's blink rate drops significantly when concentrating on a digital screen. A reduced blink rate can speed up evaporation of the eyes' tear film resulting in dry, itchy red or even watery eyes.