Andrew Adams advises all employers to be aware of the laws surrounding the eyecare of employees who drive on company business, especially since the introduction of the corporate manslaughter legislation earlier this year.
Employers are increasingly becoming more accountable for the health and wellbeing of their employees. The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations, which were amended in 2002, meant that employers have responsibility for visual display unit (VDU) user’s eyecare. As a result of this regulation, all employees who use a computer screen as part of their job are entitled to receive free sight tests from their employer.
The introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter Bill in April 2008 has further increased the accountability of employers when it comes to their employees’ health and wellbeing. In particular, the way employers are looking at their responsibilities to driver eyecare has significantly changed in the light of this new legislation.
Until now, employers’ only responsibility for employees’ eyecare was when it came to VDU users. The welfare of employees who drive on company business was not formally considered. Prior to the new legislation, if an employee was involved in a fatal incident whilst driving on company business, due to poor eyesight, the employer would not be held accountable. Now this is all set to change.
The new legislation allows for prosecution of business directors arising from management failures, when an accident ‘at work’ results in a death. This means that an employer could be held accountable for a fatal accident caused by an employee as a result of poor eyesight, if significant management failures could be identified and proved against individuals in the company. Ignorance of the need for a driver to wear glasses would certainly not be a good enough excuse.
Appreciating the impact of the new legislation
Organisations need to take steps to evaluate the potential impact of the Corporate Manslaughter Bill. If employees drive on company business, organisations should confirm that their eyesight is adequate for this task. After all, a business would never dream of employing a driver who did not have a licence, so why would they employ someone who is not fit to drive because of their sight?
Some drivers’ licences state whether the individual requires corrective spectacles to drive. However, if the licence is 20 years old and the person’s eyesight has deteriorated unknowingly, the licence will not show this.
According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) research, 20 people are killed and 220 are seriously injured each year driving on the road for work. It is worth considering how many of these could have been avoided if appropriate eyesight checks had taken place.
Research conducted by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) supports this and highlights that 13 million people do not have adequate eyesight for driving without glasses or contact lenses. If organisations put simple measures in place to test their driver’s eyesight, as required by this new bill, deaths on the road for employees and members of the public, as well as hefty fines or even imprisonment for employers, could be avoided.
Reimbursing drivers for their sight tests is one option that employers can consider. However, this can create an extra burden on administrative resources. Single deals, with one optician, is an approach considered by some employers, but this solution can be inflexible and restricts employees to one optician. Eyecare vouchers are becoming an effective and flexible solution for many businesses and offer employees the choice of nearly all opticians whilst also minimising the administrative and HR burden on a business.
Making positive changes within your organisation
Putting a driver eyecare policy in place can protect your organisation from risk of prosecution under the new legislation, as well as positively impacting on the wellbeing of your people and reinforce to them how valued they are.
The following four-point plan provides a summary of what can be included in a driver eyecare policy:
- Policy purpose and scope: explain what the policy has been designed to do, namely to ensure the people who drive vehicles as part of their role minimise any risk to their health and the health of other road users when driving on company business.
- Employer and employee responsibilities: clearly define the role of the employer as a provider of the sight test as a result of the person’s job role requiring them to drive on company business. It would also be beneficial to make the employee aware of the steps that they can personally take to make them safer on the road.
- Monitoring and review: state the need for employees to provide proof that they have had their eyes tested and that they don’t need to wear glasses, or for those who wear glasses, a signed document stating that they will wear these at all times when driving on company business.
- Record keeping: develop an appropriate system to log all users that have been provided with eye tests and ensure that these are followed up at the required time (normally every two years).
The future for driver eyecare?
There has yet to be a first test case to determine that there has been gross negligence on behalf of the employer, which has led to a fatality, to be prosecuted under the Corporate Manslaughter Bill. And, of course, no one would wish to be part of this first example.
To begin thinking about and implementing a driver eyecare policy and offering sight tests to employees that drive on company business can go a long way to help ensure that a company is safe from prosecution and the workforce’s eyesight is being looked after.
Andrew Adams is eyecare sales voucher manager at Accor Services. To download a free copy of the Accor Services driver eyecare whitepaper go to: www.eyecarevouchers.co.uk