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Taking eye care to the factory floor in Bangladesh and Vietnam Taking eye care to the factory floor in Bangladesh and Vietnam

Taking eye care to the factory floor in Bangladesh and Vietnam

For factory workers in the garment industry, the intense focus on repetitive tasks is creating eye health problems. But if detected early, they can be avoidable.

In a garment factory in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, 23-year-old Mossamut Shopna Begum is complaining of headaches, watery eyes and blurred vision.

 Mossamut  receiving health checks. 

“When I work continuously at the same distance in the factory, my vision automatically becomes hazy and blurry. When I concentrate harder on my sewing, it is getting really hard because of tears and headache.”

Mossamut is 23 but has worked in the factory for seven years since she was 16.

The same problems have been reported in Vietnam. The Fred Hollows Foundation surveyed 849 female factory workers in Vietnam and found that the number reporting eye disease or symptoms of poor vision had increased over the past three years.

In the two factories where the survey was conducted, over 70 percent and 90 percent of workers were found to have refractive error, while 10 to 20 percent reported other eye problems including cataract, eye strain, astigmatism, and glaucoma.

Many of the female workers who participated in the survey were the bread winners in their families and faced barriers accessing help. While 99 percent of workers recognised the importance of eye health to their work, only 18.3 percent of them attended periodic eye examinations. As a result, they easily developed work-related eye issues but were unable to afford medical services or find the time to access them.

The Foundation’s Vietnam team found that poor eye health led to lower levels of productivity, absences from work and higher product defect rates.

The Fred Hollows Foundation has been working with partners to improve eye health for women workers in Bangladesh and Vietnam.

In Bangladesh, doctors and nurses have been trained in eye health and provided with specialist equipment to provide eye check at cafes that are accessible for workers like Mossamut.

The Foundation also work with the factories to improve the work environment and the health of their staff. These include:
  • Improved access to emergency fountains and eye rinses where hazardous chemicals are used
  • Provision and use of protective googles in high-risk areas
  • Emphasising the important of taking breaks
  • Eye exams for early detection of eye problems
  • Specialised eye training for factory medical staff
  • Emphasising the importance of taking breaks and teaching workers how to relax their eyes
The Foundation has calculated that for every $1 invested in ending avoidable blindness. It can generate four times more in social and economic returns, providing a strong argument that factory owners should consider improvements in eye health as a strong investment