Indian Journal of Ophthalmology

: 1990  |  Volume : 38  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 64--65

Visual status of industrial workers

Rajiv Desai, Sanjiv Desai, Navin Desai, K Kumar 
 Tarabhai Desai Rotary Eye Hospital, E-22, Shastri Nagar, Near Sardarpura Head Post Office, Jodhpur-342 001 Rajasthan, India

Correspondence Address:
Navin Desai
Tarabhai Desai Rotary Eye Hospital, E-22, Shastri Nagar, Near Sardarpura Head Post Office, Jodhpur-342 001 Rajasthan


Two hundred and eighty four industrial workers were screened to determine their visual acuity. Significant visual impairment was observed in 21.8% individuals and moderate impairment in 34.5% of cases. Convergence insufficiency was a problem in 9.86% of the workers. Since uncorrected refractive errors are a prelude to disastrous workplace related eye injuries, it is recommended that prior to job placement all workers undergo visual acuity screening and get their refractive errors rectified.

How to cite this article:
Desai R, Desai S, Desai N, Kumar K. Visual status of industrial workers.Indian J Ophthalmol 1990;38:64-65

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Desai R, Desai S, Desai N, Kumar K. Visual status of industrial workers. Indian J Ophthalmol [serial online] 1990 [cited 2022 Nov 26 ];38:64-65
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Uncorrected refractive errors often lead to severely in­capacitating eye injuries in industrial workers. There is yet no literature available in our country on the extent of visual impairment in industrial workers nor any statistics to correlate eye injuries due to the poor visual status of the injured. The present communication is an attempt to document the visual status of industrial workers as the first step to determine thee eye care needs of the in­dustrial worker and formulate an industrial eye safety programme.


Two hundred eighty four workers from three metal tube units of Jodhpur were examined for visual acuity, con­vergence and general ocular examination [Figure 1]. The visual acuity was tested in the open shade with adequate daylight illumination using the Landolt's chart. The con­vergence power was measured by eliciting diplopia with the help of base out prisms of increasing dioptric value. The general ocular examination was done with torch light. The results of these examinations form the basis of the current communication.


The age distribution of workers is shown in [Table 1]. All industrial workers screened in the present project were male, with an age range of 15 to 62 years. The majority were in the 20-40 age group. The visual acuity in the worse eye of the screened worker population is depicted in [Table 2]. None of them were wearing glasses or were aware that they had a visual problem. [Table 3] shows the ocular disease found in the workers.


The need for eye safety in industries has remained in the shadows so far. Now and then one hears an isolated cry to promote workers eye safety like the NSPB's recent decision to celebrate their prevention of blind­ness week on the theme "Prevention of Blindness in Industry". There is undisputed evidence that uncor­rected refractive errors [1] can lead to blinding eye in­juries. The visual status of workers in our factories is unknown and no pertinent figures can be recalled for the Indian subcontinent. The present study helps establish base line information on the visual status of industrial workers. [Table 2] shows that by far a majority (43.6%) of workers have normal visual acuity. There are 98 individual (34.5%) who come under a fairly poor dis­tance vision range of 6/9 to 6/12. There is however a significant group of 62 workers (21.8%) who have visual acuity ranging from 6/18 to 6/60 and who come under category 1 of the WHO grades of visual impairment [2] if their vision is left uncorrected. (See [Table - 2])

It is this latter group of 62 workers who are of paramount importance because their vision is so poor as to be a potential source of grave eye injuries. Almost all of these cases had an underlying refractive error which was remedied by refraction and appropriate spectacle prescription except for 4 cases [Table 3], three of which had cataract and one had bilateral eclipse burns of the fovea. In two cases the cataract encountered was the classical senile cortical cataract while the remaining case with bilateral cataract had thick axial spoke-like radiating opacities and these could be attributed directly to exposure to chemicals as the person was constantly exposed to noxious fumes of phenol and ammonia in a chemical plant where he worked for 4 years prior to his current employment.

Anisometropic amblyopia was a finding in 3 cases. Since this entity produces a setback in the binocular function of the eyes., it is a source of great error in precision jobs like drilling, chipping, turning and lathing [Figure 2] and may produce frequent workplace related eye injuries

In the present series there was a single case of workplace related eye injury. He was a young man who after having been hit on the forehead with a metal bar had developed right abducens nerve palsy. Inclusive of this case there were only 4 cases of old ocular injury in our series[Table 3] and in none of them could we establish with certainty the role of poor visual acuity as the causative agent. This does not prove that uncor­rected visual errors are not a source of eye injuries in factory workers. For one, our sample population is too small to represent an industrial workforce of 90.1 million in the country [3], and a larger survey is called for. Secondly unless a series of fresh cases of eye injuries are examined in the emergency room and their previous visual status records screened at the time, it is impos­sible to conclusively establish this relationship. Such temporal studies are utopian in the Indian context be­cause previous visual status data of any worker is unavailable and it is not customary to check vision prior to appointment in the private or government owned factories.

From the foregoing argument two things stand out, the first being that an effective eye safety programme for industrial workers is the need of the hour to protect the eyes of the workforce. Secondly, all prospective can­didates applying for factory jobs must take visual as­sessment examination prior to job placement and the results must be carefully recorded and stored at the factory as also with the workers union. Problems of convergence weakness hamper work, in­crease production time and production costs by produc­ing unremitting aesthenopic symptoms in the afflicted person. In the current study 28 young workers (9.86%) had convergence weakness in a range from 4 to 20 [Table 3] which shows that it is a problem to reckon with. Often convergence weakness goes unrecognised in workers specially by busy practitioner's who misinterpret the ocular state as chronic conjunctivitis. Perhaps the figure of ten percent encountered in our study would serve as an eye opener and emphasize the need of testing convergence in such cases.


The authors wish to thank the National Society for Prevention of Blindness (Jodhpur district branch) which was instrumental in supporting part of this study, and to Drs. Renu Sharma and Sheela lyer for participating in the project.


1A guide for controlling eye injuries in industry, NSPB, New York pg 5, 1982.
2International classification of diseases, 1975, revesion, Geneva, WHO 1977.
3Labour Bureau, Govt. of India, 1984.