If you are like me, and yes you are, then you are getting older. And while I think I am in pretty good shape, the reality is that lately, I have noticed that my body is not doing what I think it should be doing. I am just a little off. My ability to judge distances is off. My ability to read smaller text is, well, no good. My eye sight is getting weaker and while mowing the lawn I feel off the retaining wall and injured myself. So what you say. Well, it hurt and as a risk management professional it also got me thinking. What the heck just happened?
Why I fell.
I fell off the wall because of my eyesight. I had mis-judged where I should have placed my foot. Not by a lot, but just enough. Not that I have coke-bottom glasses or anything, but that single inch was enough for me to lose my footing and fall 3 feet flat on my face and chest. So, off to the doctor I went for an eye exam. After paying the bill, I got to thinking a little more. Could low vision be a major contributor to slip and fall injuries? And are vision health care plans contributing to the problem?
Double the accident rate.
Low vision doubles the risk of falls, reports “Centrally Focused: The Impact of Age-Related Macular Degeneration” (Centre of Eye Research Australia, 2006, Prepared by Access Economics for the Centre of Eye Research Australia, Melbourne). Low vision in this context means anything less than 20/20 vision that can’t be corrected without lenses or if you have lenses, you don’t wear them. This can also mean poor vision combined with low light conditions.
Most of us are aware that as we age (turn 40 or so) our vision naturally starts to deteriorate to the point we notice it. We get blurry vision, dry eyes, fuzziness and little dots floating around. However, many of us (12,000,000 of us reports MES Vision) need prescription eye wear but don’t use it or don’t have it. That’s 12,000,000 of us running around with low vision. Even worse, 39% of adults don’t seek an annual eye exam. And 70% of our workforce require vision correction.
What’s all this mean for risk managers?
What’s it mean? A higher probability that someone will slip and fall in your workplace. And the proof is in the pudding. I will guarantee that slip and fall incidents are one of the top five injury categories, if not in the top three, at your organization and low vision is a major contributing factor. I am also confident enough to say that your organizations accident investigations do not record data such as last eye exam, whether the injured wears glasses and was or was not wearing them and the like.
Judging distances, seeing edges, noticing clear liquids, changes in elevation and other potential hazards can all be affected by low vision. Corrective lens may not seem like a big deal, but seeing clearly can mean the difference between being on the ladder rung and missing it by 1/4 of an inch. And while magnifiers, which can be purchased at big box stores may help, all they do is magnify, they don’t sharpen or crisp up your vision which can lead to similar issues as low vision.
What can we do?
If you want to reduce slip and falls, here are a few tips to do just that:
1. I mentioned that one of my questions was whether health vision plans are contributing to the issue of low vision. I suspect that some are, especially as we start to peel back the benefits we are offering our employees. The price of frames and lens is no exception to inflation and as MES Vision points out, 75% of frame purchase are $150 bucks. This doesn’t leave much for lenses and the special effects that can be placed on them. When vision plans provide $95 towards frames and $28 towards lenses, the organization is already putting heavy decisions on the employee. Especially, if they tend to spend a lot of time outside where a second set of prescription eye glasses could be needed. Just think playground aides, teachers, maintenance and custodial staff.
As risk managers, we should be reviewing our health plans and correlating slip and fall data/costs and utilization rates to see if we can do better. Offering better coverage may result in more employees using corrective lenses. Try the Cost/Benefit Calculator
2. Another thing we can do is modify our accident investigation forms to capture data on low vision issues. We can ask the injured questions about low vision, use of corrective lenses, etc. This may provide additional insight into why there are so many slip and falls.
3. Encourage eye exams regularly. We can place posters, hold lunch and learns, bring in free eye exams and the like. Focusing on, no pun intended, low vision can help raise awareness and possible reduce claims.
More stats on vision
More stats from MES Vision (download)
● 143 million adults wear prescription eyewear (64% of the adult
● Over 70% of the work force requires vision correction
● Computers are the #1 source of vision complaints in the workplace
● One out of every four children has a vision problem
● 80% of all learning takes place visually in the first 12 years
● Eye Exams are preventative medicine detecting several diseases
such as: glaucoma, high blood pressure, and diabetes
● 1.5 million had laser eye surgery in 2005
● 64% use eyeglasses
● 19% use contact lenses
● 3% use prescription sunglasses only
● 20% use eyeglasses and prescription sunglasses
● 3% use eyeglasses, contact lenses and prescription sunglasses
● 61% of U.S. adult population had an eye exam within the past year
● 45% of all adults with purchase plans plan to buy at an independent store
● 27% plan to buy at a chain store
● 19% plan to buy at a discount store
● U.S. optical retail sales, excluding exams, totaled $17.2 billion in 2005, up
1.9% from 2004 (Jobson Optical Research)
● Average amount consumers plan to spend on next eyewear purchase: $173
● 75% of eyeglasses frame purchases are for frames of $150 or less