fIRMS across South Yorkshire are being urged to prepare for a change in the law due to be introduced this year making it mandatory for employees who drive in their job to regularly have their eyes tested.
There is currently no legal obligation for employers to make sure their drivers comply with minimum sight requirements - once a motorist has passed the first assessment, they are not required to prove the fitness of their eyesight again during their working lives.
But new EU legislation due to be introduced this year will make it law for all employees who drive whilst on company business to have their eyes tested regularly in order to keep their licences.
The news comes as research by Specsavers Corporate Eyecare has found that 60 per cent of employers do not have a policy in place to test the eyesight of their employees.
Gil Vasey, director of Specsavers Crystal Peaks, said: “The current system is outdated. A driver only has to prove their vision is good enough once by reading a number plate during their driving test and that’s it for the rest of their working lives.
“A person’s eyesight deteriorates naturally with age and, if left undetected, these natural changes can result in a failure to comply with the minimum sight requirements needed in order to drive safely.
“Therefore, this new legislation is excellent news. Driving today requires a lot of concentration, there’s so much to look out for and if your vision isn’t up to scratch then you are potentially risking lives. These changes will undoubtedly improve road safety – not just for the driver themselves but for other road users too.”
The current proposal is that holders of commercial licences - category C and D vehicles - will have to have their eyes tested every five years and holders of private licences - for bikes, cars and most vans - every 10 to 15 years. Each EU member state has until 2013 to translate the directive into national law.
The proposals have also raised the question as to who is eligible to fund sight tests - the company or the driver.
Jill Davies, chief executive of Westfield Health insurers, has suggested the responsibility will fall to the employer.
Jill said: “Practically speaking, it doesn’t really matter who pays, as long as the requirements are met. But as eye tests become a mandatory job requirement for drivers and an essential part of operating a business in compliance with health and safety regulations, many employees will be expecting their employer to fund the cost.”
And those employers who choose to ignore the requirements could be putting themselves in danger of prosecution.
Jill added: “Ultimately the duty of care lies with the employer. It is their responsibility to ensure that any person driving as part of their work has sufficient vision to do so safely and therefore it is crucial that some form of procedure is introduced in order to allow employees access to regular sight tests.
“Employers will be looking for the most cost-effective way to ensure staff can gain access to optical care whenever they need it – while keeping additional administration paperwork to a minimum.
“A corporate-paid health cash plan is an obvious solution, as staff can manage their own sight tests, booking appointments at a time and place convenient to them and claiming back the cost, up to the limit provided, of the test and glasses directly from the policy provider.
“For a relatively small investment, this system helps the company to ensure its drivers meet the necessary requirements, whilst avoiding incurring additional paperwork internally.”
For more information about Westfield Health’s cash plans, call 0845 602 1629 or visit www.westfieldhealth.com