Keep your eyes on the road...
07 April 2016
Jim Lythgow, director of strategic alliances at Specsavers Corporate Eyecare, explores driver eyecare the power of the employer.
In 2014, there were 49,948 casualties on UK roads where a driver involved was travelling for work purposes. Of these, 547 people were killed and a further 5168 people were seriously injured. The total number of casualties from road collisions in 2014 was 194,477, meaning 25.7% involved professional drivers.
With these figures highlighting the dangers of driving for work, research by Specsavers Corporate Eyecare has revealed the avoidable risk of employers neglecting the eyesight of professional drivers. Some 25% of employers have concerns that some of their drivers may not have adequate eyesight. In addition, more than half (54%) of employers admit to still not offering eyecare to any of their drivers.
While this may seem like worrying reading, there is at least a simple solution to ensuring that drivers have good enough eyesight for the task.
Despite some reticence in providing it, employers do seem to be aware that eyecare is the solution. Specavers’ research has shown that 59% of employers believe regular eyesight tests for employees who drive for work purposes would help to reduce collisions.
Changes in eyesight can occur gradually and this can mean that the individual may be unaware of any problems. It is recommended, therefore, that eyesight is professionally tested at least every two years. To ensure it is adequate for driving, the examination should not only check vision over distance but also check for defects such as problems seeing things in central or peripheral vision.
Known as visual field defects, such problems may be caused by illnesses including glaucoma, cataract or retinal disease. For driving, factors like the ability to switch focus between near and far objects, such as dashboard controls and the road, and the ability to cope with varying levels of glare, are important.
Aside from the emotional cost of collisions, the research asked employers what they thought an accident could cost the business in terms of things like sick pay, temporary cover, legal expenses, lost time, etc. A third of employers (33%) said they thought this would be in excess of £5000 and 85% believed is could cost more than £1000. With specifically tailored Driver Eyecare available from just £35 per employee, the figures speak for themselves.
Furthermore, 61% of employers said they thought that testing the eyesight of employees who drive, would save the business or organisation money overall. This is a significant finding. Businesses will always have financial constraints but with so many making the connection between eyecare and reduced risk, and also between eyecare and reduced costs, it is hoped that many more businesses will be spurred into action.
Health and safety regulations make it clear that as an employer has a duty of care regarding all ‘at work’ activities, driving is most certainly also an area of responsibility. This means that the employer must take appropriate steps with regards to the safety of drivers whether it is a professional driver, a delivery person perhaps; someone who spends a great deal of time on the road, like a salesperson; or someone who is usually office-based but is attending a one-off training course or popping to the local post office. This is one of the reasons why implementing a low-cost blanket scheme is often the best option.
In addition, employers are required to provide eyecare for all ‘screen users’, under the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) regulations. With drivers and screen users requiring corporate eyecare, there cannot be a great deal of employees left in the workforce who are not entitled to eyecare. Employers are likely, therefore, to spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to single out the few that are not entitled, and may be better off with a policy of inclusion.
Leading the way
Specsavers has worked closely with road safety charity, Brake, for many years. Brake categorically states that ‘poor vision increases your risk of crashing’. With so many employers worried that employees may have inadequate eyesight for driving, it is clear that something needs to change. Employers have an important role to play. They are in a unique position to be able to make a real difference to society as a whole.
What is needed, however, is further education. Employers need to fully understand the risks in order to work to reduce them. They also need to appreciate the cost factors involved. Working together with eyeare experts, employers have the power to make a change that will be positive for their employees, for the business, and for the wider community.