Can I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim for Eye Strain?

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When it comes to work-related accidents and injuries, readers may be surprised to learn how frequently eye injuries occur in different workplaces across the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 2,000 workers suffer an eye injury requiring medical treatment every day in the United States.

Many workers have minor injuries that heal quickly. However, others are left with impaired vision or pain that never improves. Men and women who are unable to work because of a serious eye condition often face serious financial hardships. Workers’ Compensation benefits replace a portion of lost income and cover medical bills for job-related eye injuries and conditions. An experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer can assist workers who are injured on the job.

The average person spends an estimated seven hours per day in front of a computer, tablet, or mobile phone screen. For many workers, hours of uninterrupted screen time are part of the job. However, this prolonged screen time increases the risk of eye strain and fatigue. There are many reasons why looking at a screen for long periods of time can damage the eyes:

  • Increased glare and reflections on the screen.
  • Less contrast between the words and the background.
  • Viewing distance and angles are more demanding on the eyes.
  • It is more difficult to focus on online text.
  • Eyes have to work harder to focus amid blue light emitted from many digital devices.
  • Prescription glasses or contact lenses may not be designed to view screens at a suitable distance.

Workers with underlying eye or vision problems may find that too much screen time only exacerbates pain and discomfort.

What is Blue Light, and Why is It Bad for My Eyes?

Visible light is composed of various types of visible and invisible rays that impact the body in different ways. The sun is one major source of light that contains rays in shades of red, orange, yellow, green, and blue. Depending on where they exist in the visible light spectrum, each individual ray has a certain wavelength and energy.

Blue light rays are considered high-energy visible (HEV). That energy causes these rays to scatter more quickly than other visible light rays when they make contact with air and water molecules. Eyes must work harder to focus these scattered light rays. This exertion leads to eye irritation, discomfort, and other symptoms.

What are the Symptoms of Digital Eye Strain?

Digital eye strain is not a single condition, but rather a group of vision-related problems caused be excess screen time. According to the Vision Council, nearly 60 percent of adults in the United States experience digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome symptoms, including the following:

  • Tired eyes
  • Painful eyes
  • Frequent blinking
  • Blurry vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Trouble sleeping

It should be noted not all blue light is bad. Exposure to blue light rays during the day helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythms, or natural wake and sleep cycle. HEV light has also been shown to boost mood, memory, and cognitive function. However, extended exposure to blue light rays is problematic. Because digital devices emit large amounts of blue light, individuals who spend long periods of time in front of screens are likely to experience digital eye strain and fatigue.

Tips to Protect Eyes from Digital Strain

Fortunately, there are some easy ways workers who look at screens for long periods of time can prevent digital eye strain:

  • Take breaks: Using the 20-20-20 rule, the worker should stare at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds after every 20 minutes of screen time.
  • Sit at a distance: The ideal distance between a person’s eyes and a computer monitor screen is 20 to 28 inches.
  • Angle the screen: The monitor screen should be positioned at an angle of 15 to 20 degrees and four to five inches below eye level.
  • Reduce glare: A glare filter can be installed on computer screens and blue light filters on tablets and smartphones.
  • Use good lighting: Offices can create good lighting in work areas by using lower wattage bulbs in desk lamps and reduce glare with window coverings.
  • Blink often: Employees should make a conscious effort to blink frequently and slowly to keep eyes from getting dry.
  • Adjust the screen display: Eye strain can be reduced by adjusting screen brightness similar to the surrounding workspace and increasing the type size on the screen.
  • Wear blue blocker glasses: Computer glasses have a special film coating that blocks harmful blue light rays.

What Other Types of Eye Injuries can Occur at Work?

Digital eye strain is not the only eye injury common in workplaces across the United States. Laborers, factory workers, and other employees who come in contact with chemicals and machinery should take precautions to protect their eyesight. The following are common job-related eye injuries:

  • Chemicals: Hazardous substances can splash the eye, causing painful burns, tissue damage, and vision loss.
  • Infection: Health care workers in contact with blood and bodily fluids can develop infections.
  • Punctures: Small particles can enter the eye, causing scratches, abrasions, and permanent vision problems.
  • Radiation: Short-term exposure to ultraviolet light and radiation increases the risk of cataracts, macular degeneration, and other serious eye conditions.

The human eye contains some of the most delicate tissue in the human body. To ensure a lifetime of good eye health, anyone with eye pain or other symptoms should make an appointment for a comprehensive eye examination.

How can I Prevent Eye Injuries at Work?

In addition to taking steps to prevent digital eye strain, there are other ways to protect the eyes from accidents and injuries:

  • Eye protection: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides specific eye protection standards for workers in general industry, maritime, and construction. These standards vary depending on the work at hand and hazards on site, including flying objects and toxic chemicals. Employers are required to pay for and provide personal protective equipment (PPE) such as goggles and shields.
  • Safety training: Employers should provide extensive safety training for employees, showing them how to recognize common workplace hazards and follow procedures and protocols to use equipment and chemicals responsibly to prevent eye injuries. Training programs should be updated often to reflect evolving industry safety protocols and standards.
  • Emergency equipment: A life-changing eye injury can occur within seconds. Knowing what to do immediately after a work accident can possibly prevent vision loss. The American National Standard for Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment sets criteria for devices used in eye emergencies, from what temperature the water should be to how fast it flows. Workers should feel confident using this equipment after an accident. Emergency equipment must be inspected often to ensure it is in good working order at all times.

Are Eye Injuries Covered by Workers’ Compensation?

Most workers in Maryland who suffer eye injuries at work or develop an eye-related condition are entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits. These benefits generally include the following:

  • Disability benefits: Compensation is based on the severity of the injury and when the injured individual is able to resume working.
  • Medical treatment: This includes hospitalization, medication, surgery, and equipment.
  • Vocational rehabilitation: This rehabilitation includes training, services, and support to help injured workers get back to work.

In some cases, workers are disabled for life. The loss of both eyes is one scenario in which the worker may be entitled to additional compensation.  Permanent total disability benefits are equivalent to two-thirds of the average weekly wage and paid out for life or until the individual is no longer permanently disabled.

How can I File a Claim for a Work-Related Eye Injury?

Workers in Maryland who develop an eye disease or injury because of their work conditions should notify their employer immediately. Notification in writing is preferred. When an eye injury causes an employee to miss more than three days of work, the employer sends an Employer’s First Report to the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC). The worker then follows up by mailing a signed copy of the original form. It is always a good idea to enlist the assistance of an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer for this step. He or she will ensure the claim is accurate, complete, and submitted within the proper timeframe.

After receiving a signed Claim Form, the WCC issues a claim number and Notice of Employee’s Claim, verifying all the necessary information has been received. They set a Consideration Date to make a decision. Until that date, the employer’s insurer can raise issues or contest the claim. If no issues are filed, in most cases, the WCC determines the injury is work related and the claim is ruled valid. Every work injury case and claim process is unique. A lawyer’s advice is especially invaluable for proving eye injuries happened at work and appealing denied claims.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Fight for Injured Workers in Maryland

Eye injuries can severely impact a person’s quality of life, especially those that cause vision impairment. If you have experienced an eye injury at work, the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton are available to resolve tough work injury claims and recover compensation so you can focus on your recovery. When you have been injured on the job, we are there to help you receive the compensation and coverage you deserve. To learn more about our legal services, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online for a free consultation. With offices in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.