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OCULAR HAZARDS IN SCHOOLS

Ocular or eye hazards refer to situations or materials such as dust, metal objects, fumes and other objects that have the potential to cause harm to the eye. Ocular hazards can be found in the workplace, schools, homes and our environment in general. 
 
Ocular hazards are a major cause of ocular morbidity in children. It is also a leading cause of non-congenital unilateral blindness. Paediatric ocular injuries are usually uniocular (one eye involved) and accidental. However, most ocular trauma in children are preventable. According to local research, of the prevalence of eye injuries among primary school children who were under 15yrs of age, randomly selected from different schools in the urban and rural areas of Enugu state of Nigeria, schools ranked second in the commonest environments for an eye injury.
 
Ocular injuries are caused by various agents. Primary among these agents include stick/wood splinters, stones, pieces of metal, glass, fall, plastic, head-butt, fist blow and fingernails which can lead to penetrating or contusion injuries. These agents are commonly found in the school environment (playground, classrooms and audio/visual labs). The school is a place where ideas are freely exchanged, intellectual growth is nurtured and social interactions are shaped through experience. However, the school halls and classrooms are also a hotbed of infectious bacteria and all sorts of danger to the eye. 
 With kids running to class, staring endlessly at computer screens or training hard for sports competitions, maintaining good eye health will definitely be the last thing on their minds. Teaching them important safety tips would reduce the occurrence of ocular injuries. Children are naïve and need to be instructed by teachers on methods of avoiding ocular hazards. Children should be instructed to reduce the number of hours spent on the computer. In a situation where prolonged use of computers cannot be avoided, the 20-20-20 rule must be applied (after every 20 minutes, look away from the computer screen for 20 seconds at a distance of 20 feet) to avoid eye exhaustion. The computer monitor needs to be placed a little lower than the level of the child’s eyes. 
 
Rubbing the eyes frequently can cause germs to spread and cause infections. During play and other school activities, children pick up germs form dirty surfaces and other infected peers. Children should be taught to not touch their eyes with unwashed hands under any circumstance! They should be encouraged to wash their hands frequently as this is an important hygiene routine. Any kid with a red eye should have his or her eye checked out and properly treated, before being allowed to return to school as it is most times very contagious.
 
Children should be supervised during play hours and instructed not to play with objects that have sharp edges or points as these could be dangerous and harmful. Schools should ensure that toys with sharp edges are not found in playgrounds while also adequately spacing play equipment. Protective eyewear should be worn during sporting activities. Most injuries among kids between ages 11 to 14 occur during sports. According to the National Eye Institute, 35,000 incidents occur per year. Protective eyewear such as goggles or a helmet-mounted eye/face shield can drastically reduce the risk of serious eye injury. Parents can set a good example by putting on protective eye gear during sports.
Safety in the classroom cannot be overemphasized. Classroom safety is an essential part of school risk management. Students and teachers spend the most time in classrooms, hence the need for all hazardous materials to be kept out of reach or entirely away from the classrooms. Tripping hazards should also be eliminated.  
 
Ocular hazards in schools can be eradicated by educating our kids on these dangers and by providing a safer learning environment for them. With children being the future of tomorrow, it is only proper we ensure they have a clear vision to see what lies ahead of them and ultimately, fulfill their dreams.