A vision for the future: employer responsibility for eye tests

    30 Aug 2007

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    The cost of an eye test is far less than a health and safety lawsuit. As employees become more educated in company eye test legislation, the cost for employers could potentially rise, with staff requesting eye examinations, spectacles and other optical devices for work.

    Employers are required by law to cover the cost of an eye test for a worker if they request it, and also pay for any optical equipment they need to work in a safe manner, most commonly spectacles.

    Employers are only liable for Display Screen Equipment (DSE) tests, not for any other eye examination, and are only required to provide this on an annual basis, unless an employee’s vision can be compromised by the environment they work in.

    It is in the interests of companies to play an active role in looking after the eyesight of their employees. While some organisations continue to view the issue as just another compliance hassle, other, more enlightened employers, are realising they can package their compliance requirements as genuine benefits for staff.

    Marc Karbaron, managing partner at OPTIX opticians, points out:

    “If people viewed a visit to the opticians as seriously as they take a trip to the dentist, eyecare would be up there as one of the leading benefits offered to employees. That’s where it should be, but there’s still a lot of education work to be done before employers and employees understand the true value of an eye test.”

    Employers should be developing clear company policies on eyecare, to avoid any liable disputes and to help the workforce increase its productivity.

    Five reasons to develop a formal eyecare policy:

    1. Liability: Rightly or wrongly, almost two thirds of workers attribute deterioration in their eyesight to use of a computer at work.
    2. Productivity: 70% of workers experience blurred vision, headache, migraine, dizzy spells or nausea as a result of using a computer at work.
    3. Attendance: 1.5 million workers have gone absent with eye-related illness.
    4. Recruitment: Two-thirds of workers say benefits packages have a clear influence on their career decisions. 86% would take advantage of help with their eyecare.
    5. Reputation: 90% of employees believe workers' rights should be openly communicated; failure to inform employees of their right to free eye tests could damage your reputation; offering this and more to all employees could help to enhance it.

    Similarly employers should have a DSE policy in place. When creating this type of policy companies should look to include:

    • purpose and scope of the policy – an explanation of what the policy has been designed to do, namely to ensure that employees who use Display Screen Equipment regularly minimise any risk to their health arising from exposure to DSE or the layout of their workstation;
    • explanation of the key legislation in this area – The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998;
    • definitions – an explanation of the key terms such as "DSE", "workstation" etc; and
    • an outline of employers' and employees' responsibilities to protect vision.

    For more information, Workplace Law has published a Display Screen Equipment Policy and Management Guide version 2.0 to help employers in England and Wales ensure that they comply with their duties under law, and to provide a clear record of the policy and procedure when it comes to DSE. The draft policy covers:

    • an overview of legislation;
    • responsibilities;
    • safe use of DSE;
    • sources of Further Information;
    • and more.

    The draft policy also comes with a 18-page Management Guide containing helpful notes on the policy and the latest HSE guidance on working on VDUs. To buy, click here» or call 0871 777 8881.

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