Protecting Eyes from Sun Exposure

Protecting Eyes from Sun Exposure

  • Date: Monday 20th August 2018
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Sustained exposure to UV rays from the sun can be damaging to eyesight. 

Many of us have been enjoying the heatwave this summer, with record temperatures taking hold.  While it may be pleasant at weekends and on days off, it is often a different story for those having to work outdoors in the extreme sun and heat.  The advice to cover up and use high-factor sun cream is now well communicated, but many employers may not have considered the risk the sun can have to employees’ eyes and there can be misunderstandings around exactly how vulnerable the eyes can be. 

It is therefore important that employers consider eye care as part of their sun protection policy.

Ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by the sun can be as harmful to eyes as they are to the skin, potentially causing short and long-term eye damage, including 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 conditions in the future.

Different types of sunglasses offer different levels of protection. Poor quality sunglasses may cause the pupil to dilate, increasing the amount of UV light filtering into the eyes.  Eyelids are particularly prone to cancer as the skin is thinner here than on most of the rest of the body. Good quality sunglasses will also protect the delicate skin surrounding the eyes. Check that sunglasses comply with BS EN 1836: 1997, Personal Eye Protection or bear the CE kite mark and are marked UV 400.

Dangers from the sun can also be reduced by polarised lenses which are designed to absorb glare.  Non-polarised sunglasses will only have a minimal effect, even though they will reduce the amount of visible light.

Sunglasses should certainly be a consideration in terms of PPE provision, particularly for those employees who work outside or drive. For everyday glasses wearers, sunglasses can be provided with prescription lenses or photochromic lenses, which instantly adapt to light changes, darkening in bright light.


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