Driver eyesight: employers and employees at risk

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– Directors face prosecution –
– Companies carry financial burden –
– Human cost immeasurable –

Employers in Ireland are unaware of their responsibilities for employees who drive in the course of their work, according to information from Specsavers Corporate Eyecare.

It is still the belief of many companies and organisations that the Law makes the individual driver responsible for ensuring that they are fully fit to drive. The Health and Safety Authority makes it clear, however, that it is a joint responsibility and an area where employers have a clear duty of care. This includes ensuring their eyesight is good enough for driving.

‘The Health, Safety and Welfare at Work Act allows company directors to be prosecuted following a collision if it is proven that they have not managed safety properly.’ explains Dona McLafferty, corporate account manager for Specsavers Corporate Eyecare in the Republic of Ireland.

‘While commuting to and from a place of work, the individual is accountable for their own actions. But when a journey takes place for work purposes, the responsibility shifts. Our experience across a wide variety of industries and companies of all sizes shows that it so often does not occur to employers that this area comes under their health and safety remit. The figures show that company car drivers have 30 to 40 percent more collisions than other drivers and the HSA requires employers to put proper measures in place.  Ensuring the eyesight of employees is good enough for driving is a vital part of any health and safety policy.’

Dona McLafferty adds that it pays to do the right thing: ‘The steps to be taken are relatively simple but could have a big impact on both the employee and employer, should a collision occur.’

Perhaps surprisingly, it is not the drivers of lorries or busses that are causing the most concern but company car drivers and the ‘grey fleet’ of those who drive their own vehicle for company purposes. The employees that are often overlooked are those whose main role is office or site-based, but whose job includes the need to travel for meetings or training, for example. The risks are high, with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and Road Safety Authority (RSA) stating that the number of work-related deaths from road collisions is double that of any other causes.

Eyesight can deteriorate rapidly without the individual noticing, so regular eye examinations are essential, especially for those who drive during the course of their work. A thorough eye examination includes the checking of peripheral vision, which is of utmost importance for drivers.

The HSA recommends assessing current health and safety procedures covering driving for work and drawing up a programme of management. The Health, Safety and Welfare at Work Act allows company directors to be prosecuted following a collision if it is proven that they have not managed safety properly. It is also calculated that work-related collisions cost companies up to 36Euros for every 1Euro claimed on insurance.

To ensure that drivers’ eyesight meets the required standards for driving, Specsavers Corporate Eyecare offers a simple voucher scheme: Optical Care for Drivers. The vouchers can be purchased as required and simply handed out to any employees who drive in the course of their work. The voucher entitles them to a full eye examination and glasses if required, or non-prescription sunglasses if eyesight is found to be adequate.