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Eyestrain

Work with visual display units may give rise to visual fatigue (eye strain) with prolonged use.

Symptoms of eyestrain:

  • Headache
  • Burning and itching eyes
  • Double vision
  • Blurred vision for either near or far viewing distances
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Flickering sensations
  • Slow refocussing and frequently losing the place when moving eyes from printed material to the screen

Keeping eye strain to a minimum

The visual display unit should be positioned at right angles to windows to minimise reflections and glare. The screen should be positioned so that artificial lighting does not reflect from the screen.

Rest breaks are important because VDU operation often requires intense concentration. Consider the following:

  • Work with screen based equipment should be interspersed with other tasks.
  • If meetings are part of the day, organise them across the day to help break up sedentary tasks at the computer.
  • Glancing away from the screen for a second or two every few minutes will make work with VDU's more comfortable.

Eyestrain and fatigue can also be the result of uncorrected eye vision defects.

One such problem is presbyopia which often begins from age 40 to 45. This involves loss of ability to readily focus back on objects that are close up. Spectacles may be required.

Lighting

Lighting in an office environment where 'ordinary' visual tasks are performed should be in the range of 300 to 400 lux. For more demanding visual tasks, including proof reading and working from poor quality photocopies, 600 lux is required.  the following is a guide to lux levels:

 Source: Safe Work Australia 2012, ‘Code of Practice – Managing the work environment and facilities’, p. 12, Table 1.

There should be a high degree of contrast between the characters on the screen and the background on the screen to avoid eye strain.

Localised lighting sources such as flexible lamps may be used for other desk work. These should be shielded to avoid glare in the work surface or VDU screen and to prevent sharp contrast.  Some other solutions include:

  • Changing the location of the workstation
  • Increasing or decreasing the number of lights
  • Changing light globes for duller or brighter options
  • Changing the type of lighting
  • Changing or using diffusers or reflectors on existing lights
  • Filtering light using screens, curtains and blinds.

WHS Unit staff can measure lighting levels.

Anti-glare treatments

Glare and reflections from work surfaces or VDU screens will add to fatigue and may precipitate or aggravate eyestrain and headaches.

Wherever possible furniture should be arranged in order to eliminate reflections and avoid contrast of illuminance.

If glare and reflections persist then a screen treatment may be required.  Glare can be treated by:

  • Avoiding reflections from bright light sources
  • Avoiding high differences contrast such as placing a VDU screen in front of a window.  VDU screens should be placed away from windows, so the worker is not looking at the screen with a bright window directly behind it. 
  • Control daylight by filtering it using available blinds.

Noise

Noise may increase operator stress and thus fatigue. Noise from printers should be reduced by enclosing the printer in an acoustic hood. General noise may be reduced by floor carpeting and woven wall hangings.

The recommended decibel range for office work is 55 to 65dBA.

If noise is an issue then consider some of the following controls:

  • Not using the noisy equipment any more.
  • Changing the task to not produce the hazardous noise, if possible.
  • Substitute noisy equipment for quieter models.
  • Modify processes and equipment to reduce the noise such as using dampening materials to reduce vibration noise or even turning down volume controls, if present.
  • Isolate the noise by locating noisy equipment in another room, or moving it further away.  Providing barriers or enclosures may also help.  If it is a noisy process, determine if it can be isolated by time by conducting the task when people are less likely to be around.
  • Notifying workers and others in advance of noisy work to limit their exposure.

Technical staff from the Buildings and Property Division can measure decibels.

Entry and Exit

Entry and exit points should be kept clear and remain safe.  This includes not storing equipment and boxes in and around doorways.  Aisles and walkways should be at least 600mm wide and kept free of furniture or other obstructions at all times.

 

For further information please check the following resources:

 

Managing the Work Environment and Facilities (Code of Practice) - Safe Work Australia

Managing Noise and Preventing Hearing Loss at Work (Code of Practice) - Safe Work Australia