How the Total Solar Eclipse Will Impact Employee Eye Safety

You may know that a total solar eclipse is coming our way on Monday, August 21. This is very exciting! Especially since the last time the contiguous U.S. saw a total eclipse was in 1979, so millions of people will be traveling to see this special event.

One misconception about an eclipse is that it’s safe to look at the sun, because it’s more comfortable to look at than a typical sunny day. But, if someone looks at the total eclipse and the sun even begins to peek back out, they could begin to put themselves in danger to seriously injure their eyes without proper sun protection.

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Eclipse eye safety for your employees

  • It is never safe to look directly at the sun, even while wearing sunglasses with UV protection or eyeglasses with Transitions® lenses. Although these block harmful UV rays, they do not block harmful infrared or intense visible light that can cause solar retinopathy from staring at direct sunlight. They are never safe for looking directly at the sun, and neither are regular sunglasses
  • Solar retinopathy occurs when bright light from the sun floods the retina and is caused by staring at the sun for too long. Most people can’t stand to look at the sun long enough to cause damage, but the eclipse (partial or total) makes it more comfortable to stare at the sun.
  • The retina is home to the light-sensing cells that make vision possible. When they’re over-stimulated by sunlight, they release a flood of communication chemicals that can damage the retina. This damage is often painless, so people don’t realize they’re damaging their vision.
  • Don’t be fooled by the eclipse – it’s still not safe to look at the sun! The ONLY exception to look at the total solar eclipse safely is if you’re in the path of totality and the moon completely covers the sun and there is no longer any direct sunlight coming toward you
  • If you’re in the path of totality, it is still very important to be vigilant to protect your eyes before and after totality. The total eclipse only lasts a minute or two in some locations
  • It’s important to check local information on timing of when the total eclipse will begin and end in your area. Check out NASA’s website to get started.
  • The only safe way to look directly at the sun is through glasses that meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard. Only four manufacturers have met this standard: Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical and TSE 17 Solar eclipse glasses have met the following standards for becoming ISO certified:
    • 100% harmful UV
    • 100% harmful infrared
    • 99.99% of intense visible light
  • An alternative method for safe viewing of the partially eclipsed sun is pinhole projection. Visit https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety for directions on this indirect viewing method.

Eclipse Safety

Year-round eye safety

Remember that the eclipse is only one day, but eye safety should be practiced year-round! Excessive UV exposure is dangerous for eyes as well as your skin. Photokeratitis is a painful eye condition that happens when your eyes are exposed to UV rays. It is like having sunburned eyes. This condition can be prevented by wearing eye protection that block UV radiation, such as Transitions lenses.

John Thorp is a staff vice president at Anthem Inc. and oversees the vision programs within the company.