45% of employers worry employees’ eyesight is not adequate for driving

New research from Specsavers Corporate Eyecare has found nearly half of employers are concerned that employees who drive during the course of their work may not have adequate eyesight to do so safely.

As part of Specsavers’ sponsorship of Road Safety Week (18 – 24 November), the opticians is encouraging employers to take a lead role in ensuring that their drivers can see well enough to drive.

In a survey of more than 500 HR decision makers from companies of all sizes across the UK, Specsavers discovered 45% of employers had concerns about whether their workers’ eyesight was as good as it should be for driving.

Jim Lythgow, director of strategic alliances at Specsavers Corporate Eyecare, said: ‘It may be a surprise to many that this figure is so high, especially as the legal requirements for driver eyesight are actually quite minimal. The law still just requires a driver to be able to read a modern number plate from a distance of 20 metres. The fact that so many employers are concerned should serve as a wake-up call.’

The Road Haulage Association is supporting Specsavers’ campaign to encourage drivers to have regular eye tests. Chief exec Richard Burnett recently had his eyes tested at Specsavers, where the optometrist spotted the early symptoms of glaucoma. He was referred to hospital and his condition is now being monitored and treated. As his glaucoma was picked up early he has suffered no loss of vision and can continue to drive.

He said his experience showed how essential it is for everyone to have regular eye tests, especially if they drive.

‘I think it’s really important in my position that I lead by example and get regular eye tests. For so many people in the UK; truck operators in particular, the roads are their place of work, it’s where they do business. We need to make sure that they are safe and that we are doing all we can to cut the number of accidents. That includes having regular eye tests to make sure that everyone has not only good eyesight, but also good eye health.

‘It is encouraging to know that if, like me, the optometrist finds an issue during the eye examination, it can usually be managed with the right medication and support.’ Specsavers’ research showed that employers are making the right moves to improve the situation, and nearly three quarters (72%) said that they offer workplace eye care to all who drive for work purposes. 17% said they offer it to some drivers and just 11% did not offer eye care to anyone driving in the course of their work.

‘If employers are offering eye care to the majority of drivers but are still concerned that their eyesight is not good enough, then clearly something is missing’, commented Jim Lythgow. ‘It is not enough to just offer corporate eye care. It needs to be proactively communicated and promoted too. If employees were more aware of the risks they run by not having regular eye tests, such as potentially losing their driving license, they may be more likely to take up the benefit.’

Steps such as putting up posters and information on staff noticeboards or adding details on a staff intranet, can be very effective in encouraging staff to take up their eye care benefits. A number of Specsavers’ customers now also engage in wellbeing days, which enable them to promote all health benefits on offer to their staff. For eye care in particular, this is an opportunity for employees to learn about the wider benefits of testing, including the optometrist being able to detect symptoms of wider health issues, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes.

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