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Occupational safety and health

Keep an eye on your eye health at work

An estimated 13 million people live with vision impairment linked to their occupations, say the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).

Press release | 05 September 2023
GENEVA (ILO News) – More needs to be done to protect workers’ eye health, says a new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).

According to Eye Health and the World of Work, 13 million people live with vision impairment linked to their work, with an estimated 3.5 million eye injuries occurring in the workplace every year. This amounts to 1 per cent of all non-fatal occupational injuries.

Eye health significantly affects labour markets: workers with vision impairment are 30 per cent less likely to be employed, compared to those without. Economic development plays a significant role in the prevalence of vision impairment, with low- and middle-income regions experiencing about four times more cases than high-income regions.

More than 90 per cent of vision impairment cases are either preventable or treatable through existing, highly cost-effective interventions, emphasizes the study. This underscores the need for coordinated global, national, and workplace initiatives to protect workers’ well-being, since eye health is an integral part of workers’ health.

Occupational safety and health (OSH) programmes to protect the vision of workers should be designed with three goals in mind, underlines the study: prevent exposure to specific hazards in each workplace; protect the existing health of workers’ eyes; and provide a system to include workers’ naturally occurring sight loss in risk assessments.

Workers should be informed of hazards that may affect their eye health. Workers and their representatives should also be consulted about eye health programmes and interventions in workplaces.

“The ILO stresses the importance of protecting workers’ safety and health – including their eyes. By prioritizing eye health awareness and effective implementation, we can make sure workers have access to a safe and healthy working environment. This ensures their overall well-being, reduces disparities, and leads to heightened productivity,” said Joaquim Pintado Nunes, ILO Chief of Labour Administration, Labour Inspection and Occupational Safety and Health.

“This report demonstrates to everyone the vital importance of looking after our eyes, whilst also giving incredibly useful guidance and recommendations for how to protect and promote eye health within the workplace,” said IAPB President, Caroline Casey.

The study comes a month before World Sight Day, which this year focuses on the importance of eye health in the workplace with the theme ‘Love Your Eyes at Work’. It calls on employers around the world to prioritize the eye health of their staff.

About World Sight Day

World Sight Day is coordinated by IAPB and is an annual day of awareness, held on the second Thursday of October. It is an opportunity to focus the world's attention on eye care. World Sight Day 2023 will be held on Thursday 12 October 2023.