Prolonged use of screens at work can cause visual issues such as eye strain, dry eyes, and headaches. Providing employees with VDU glasses can help reduce the negative effects for employees who spend prolonged amounts of time at computer workstations.
Employers have an obligation under UK Health and Safety at work laws to make sure employees have a healthy work environment.
There are specific regulations and guidelines for employers to follow in order to protect display screen equipment users, also known as VDU users.
DSE Use & Eye Strain
The constant use of display screen equipment (DSE) can impact the health of our eyes. Eye strain and other impacts should be taken seriously by employers.
The law requires employers to ensure employee health is protected under the Health and Safety (Display
Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992. There are extensive guidelines about employer responsibilities in this area within the HSE Guide Working with display screen equipment.
DSE related eye strain occurs when a worker uses a screen for prolonged periods. Symptoms such as headaches can indicate that the eyes are being impacted.
See Also: VDU Use Regulations
Symptoms of Computer Related Eye Strain
Computer related eye strain can be detrimental to the overall health and well being of DSE users in the workplace. It is important to recognise the signs so that you can take the necessary precautions.
Often, eye strain can be mistaken for other ailments such as hay fever, allergies and tiredness. The most common symptoms of eye strain related to DSE use to be aware of are:-
- Sore and uncomfortable eyes.
- Gritty, dry or even runny eyes.
- Headaches and general achy feeling.
- Disrupted sleep patterns.
- Itchy eyes.
- Watery eyes.
- Trouble seeing clearly.
- Double vision.
- Sensitivity to lights.
A good indication that you have eye strain, is if your eyes feel better once you are away from electronic devices. Eyes that get sore once you are sitting at your computer and progressively worsen throughout the day, are likely to be caused by eye strain.
Fortunately, using computer screens will not cause any lasting damage to eyes.
Your employer should already have a policy in place to help prevent this. They are required to conduct computer workstation risk assessments to protect employee health.
This HSE checklist shows the type of workstation assessments that should be made.
What Are VDU Glasses?
VDU glasses are specially designed glasses that help reduce strain on eyes caused by prolonged screen use. Some types of glasses are also known as blue light glasses, or computer glasses.
They work by blocking the blue light emitted by computer screens, which is responsible for the symptoms of eye strain. Some VDU glasses have specialist coatings which reduce glare and help magnify the details on computer screens.
Employees who regularly wear VDU glasses cope much better with continuous screen time than those without. Providing employees with them can improve productivity, and the cost is relatively low.
Employees who spend the majority of their working hours working on computer screens are entitled to eye tests paid for by their employers.
The Law on Employer Eye Tests
If you spend a significant part of the working day sitting at your desk working on a computer, you will be entitled to an eye test paid for by your employer.
The law says that employers must:-
- Arrange an eye test for eligible employees if they request one.
- Provide glasses if an employee needs a special prescription for VDU Use.
- Assess DSE workstations and take steps to reduce any health risks.
Source: HSE Eyes & Eyesight Tests.
The Health and Safety Regulations on display screen use are there to protect employees who use computers continuously for one hour or longer. Employers should also provide employees with training on this subject and carry out a workstation risk assessment.
This is usually arranged by the employer. They have the right to choose the opticians who will provide your test. Should you wish to go elsewhere then your employer may ask you to contribute towards the cost.
Ideally, the first eye test should be carried out before employment commences. Then they should be conducted at regular intervals agreed upon between employer and employee.
These regulations only apply to those who use screens for prolonged periods. They don’t cover those who use screens intermittently.
How Much Should Employers Pay Towards VDU Glasses?
Employers must also pay for the cost of basic VDU glasses – this includes the lenses and frames. This is a legal requirement along with the eye tests.
It is important to note that this isn’t the case for any workers who are self employed. Employers only have to pay for eye tests and standard glasses for those employees who are employed by the company.
Employers can use their discretion when booking eye tests and paying for any glasses that are required. If an employee wants an expensive pair of glasses then the employer is not obliged to pay for them.
It’s important to note that employers are only liable to pay for the cost of prescription glasses if “an employee only needs them for VDU use”. This means if an employee already needs prescription glasses, and they do not need a different prescription to use at a workstation, employers do not need to purchase any additional pairs.
Employers are also not obligated to pay for specialist blue light coatings on VDU glasses.
Sometimes, employees might pay the initial costs of both the eye test and the VDU glasses. This should then be reimbursed by the employer.
If you have decided to have a more expensive eye test and have chosen pricier glasses, you may need to pay some of the costs yourself. Employers are only expected to foot the bill of reasonable costs which they will be aware of from their research.
Employers will usually pay the employee back in their wages by adding on the amount they spent. They will be required to show receipts so that this can be organised.
Other Solutions to Reduce Work Related Eye Strain
Wearing proper glasses is the most effective way of dealing with eye strain but there are other things to try. Employers should ideally conduct a risk assessment and have things in place to improve employees’ eye health.
Let’s take a look at some of the other solutions to reduce work related eye strain:
- Reconsider the distance from your eyes to the screen and make any tweaks as necessary.
- Take regular breaks from the screen – even looking away for as little as 20 seconds regularly can help.
- Natural light can intensify eye strain as it can cause screen glare. Try to use dimmer lighting and keep the blinds closed.
- Alter your screen settings to get the best results. You can make the font larger, the screen size bigger and change the resolution to suit.
- Make sure you have regular eye tests which should be offered and paid for by your employer.
- Good posture is also important when it comes to working on a screen daily.
It is not recommended to wear VDU glasses all the time. They should only be used for work purposes and allow the eyes to adjust and rest when they are not required.
If you experience any of the symptoms of eye strain then you are likely to benefit from VDU glasses. An up to date eye test will also determine if you should be wearing them.
It is the lenses that are different on VDU glasses. They have been designed with an anti glare tint or coating. Reading glasses are specifically for reading print in books and documents, approximately 15 inches away.