Protecting employees’ eyes from sun exposure

SunglassesWith summer now in full swing, many employees may be at risk of eye damage from the sun. Ultraviolet (UV) rays can be as harmful to the eyes as they are to the skin and it is an employer’s responsibility to ensure the health and safety of all ‘at work’ activities. Sunglasses may not be the first thought for employers regarding personal protective equipment (PPE), but they are a valid requirement for many employees who work outside or drive for work purposes.

Possibilities of long-term damage

UV rays emitted by the sun can cause short and long-term eye damage and increase the risk of developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Excessive exposure to the sun can cause a painful sunburn-like inflammation of the cornea at the front of the eye. This can greatly increase the risk of developing more serious, even sight-threatening, conditions in the future.

The simple answer

The simple solution is to provide sunglasses. They do not need to be expensive and may provide a small but highly appreciated employee benefit.

Cancer prevention

Because the skin on the eyelids and around the eyes is thinner than on most of the rest of the body, it is particularly vulnerable to cancer. Good quality sunglasses protect not only the eyes themselves but also the delicate skin surrounding the eyes.

Quality protection

Employers should be aware, however, that not all sunglasses offer the same level of protection. Poor quality sunglasses may cause the pupil to dilate, actually increasing the amount of UV light filtering into the eyes. It is essential to check that sunglasses comply with BSEN 1836: 1997, or bear the CE kite mark and are marked UV 400.

The dangers from the sun can be reduced by polarised lenses, which use a layer of iodine crystals to absorb the glare. Non-polarised sunglasses will only have a minimal effect, even though they will reduce the amount of visible light.

The style of sunglasses is also relevant. The larger the lens, the more protection they will give the eyes as there is less chance that light will filter in through the sides.

Take advice

An optician is there to provide advice on all aspects of eyecare and not just to provide glasses for those with visual difficulties. Opticians will be best placed to advise on the type of sunglasses for the employee’s needs in terms of protection, comfort and appearance. They may even offer to check the amount of UV protection being offered by the employee’s existing sunglasses.

Prescription solution

Having sun protection does not mean having to carry two pairs of glasses. For everyday glasses wearers, sunglasses are also available with prescription lenses. Glasses can also be selected with photochromic lenses, which instantly adapt to light changes, darkening in bright light.

Jim Lythgow, director of strategic alliances at Specsavers Corporate Eyecare, said: ‘As the summer is hotting up, we are encouraging employers to consider the importance of eye protection from the sun for their employees. This is a crucial aspect of PPE as the eyes can be extremely vulnerable to sun exposure.’

For employees receiving eye care under eVouchers for Driving or Optical Care, Specsavers Corporate Eyecare offers sunglasses to anyone who does not have a prescription requirement for other glasses.

For more information visit www.specsavers.co.uk/corporate