If, like many manufacturing plant department managers, you spend long hours at a video display terminal (VDT), you won't be surprised to learn that eye and vision problems are the most common health complaints of VDT users. Typical symptoms include: eye fatigue or eye strain; blurred vision; burning, itching or tearing eyes; temporary change in the ability to see colors; and headaches. Although the experts have not found a connection between VDT use and long-term damage to the eyes, many people feel that their vision has worsened after working with VDTs.
Among the most common factors for headaches, eye, and vision problems are the following:
- unclear, flickering, or too-small characters
- reflections and screen glare
- light that is too bright
- being too close to, or far from, the screen
- too much time spent looking at the screen
- stressful working conditions
The basic problem is that human eyes were created for seeing most efficiently at a distance. But VDT work requires intense use of the eyes at close range for long periods of time. That fact alone can strain the eyes and cause vision problems, loss of productivity, and a drop in morale for workers. The problem can be made worse if one has an incorrect eyeglass or contact lens prescription that blurs the vision slightly. People who have trouble maintaining focus or who have difficulty with eye coordination may find the problems are aggravated by VDT use.
Eye on solutions
The good news, say the experts, is that most VDT-related vision problems can be solved with proper workstation planning, good work habits and professional eye care. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recommended that all VDT users have periodic vision exams. Workers should be encouraged to note any vision irregularities and report these to the professional giving the eye exam.
Consider these recommendations to promote good visual health:
n Take a break! NIOSH recommends taking a 15-minute alternate-task break every hour for full-time VDT users.
n Use proper lighting. Lighting can have a significant impact on visual comfort and efficiency.
n VDT lighting should be about 20 or 50 foot candles, about half the level used in most offices. Lower lighting can be achieved by using fewer bulbs or fluorescent tubes. Another choice is to install low intensity tubes or use dimmer switches.
n The brightness of the surroundings should closely match the brightness of the VDT screen. The contrast between characters on the screen and the screen background should be high.
n Try to minimize reflected glare on VDT screens, use window shades or drapes to block out excessive sunlight. Antiglare screens are another good choice. To test for glare problems, place a small mirror on the VDT screen. You should not be able to see any light bulbs or windows, which could act as a source of glare. Move the VDT to eliminate the problem.
Look at your workstation
A visually oriented workstation is an important means of preventing vision problems. The following tips can make a significant difference:
Use an adjustable chair that enables you to sit at a proper angle and distance from the VDT screen. The screen itself should be positioned 16 to 30 inches from the eyes, with the top just below eye level.
Choose a VDT that swivels and tilts, has a detachable keyboard, and has both contrast and brightness controls for the screen.
Place reference material on an adjustable copy holder close to the screen and within the same viewing distance.
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