Employers’ failure to offer eye care to drivers puts staff and company reputation at risk

The majority of employers do not offer eye care to drivers, potentially putting staff and company reputation at risk, it is claimed.

What’s more following the recent ending of British Summer Time heralding the clocks going back for the winter, driving has become even more of a “risky business”, according to experts.

The latest data from Insurethebox, a UK provider of telematics insurance, reveals the cost an extra hour in bed, is an overall 14% increase in crashes across the UK. Additionally, the loss in daylight in the evening appears to have a particularly marked impact with a 36% increase in collisions between 5pm and 8pm.

Furthermore, more than eight in 10 (83%) people in the UK’s hard-working van community feel more tired in the autumn and winter compared to summer, with 45% admitting they suffer from low mood more in the darker, colder winter months, according to new research from Mercedes-Benz Vans.

As a result of the darker days, 40% of van drivers said they suffered from fatigue, with nearly half confessing to nearly fallen asleep at the wheel (48%). And, according to the Mercedes-Benz Vans Business Barometer, which monitors the opinions on more than 2,000 people in van community, nearly one in three (30%) said they suffered from symptoms akin to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in winter.

Meanwhile, new research by Specsavers Corporate Eyecare suggests that just 38% of employers offer eye care specifically to drivers.

In a survey of more than 500 heads of UK companies, the majority, 62%, said they did not provide eye care specifically for employees who drive during the course of their work.

Jim Lythgow, director of strategic alliances at Specsavers Corporate Eyecare, said: “Employers that don’t offer eye care to their drivers may be putting their employees and their company reputation at risk.”

Driver eyesight checks are recommended by Fleet Service Great Britain (Fleet Service GB) as part of its at-work driver safety advice to clients.

Housing association LiveWest, which has outsourced the management of its 317-strong van fleet to Fleet Service GB, introduced driver eyesight checks on the company’s recommendation.

As a result, LiveWest identified some weaknesses and implemented corrective actions to mitigate any risk with fleet manager Paul Ayris saying: “We are comfortable that we have strengthened our risk processes.” Eyesight checks, mandatory every two years, are paid for by the company.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 makes it clear that employers have a responsibility for their drivers. The legislation requires employers to ‘take appropriate steps to ensure the health and safety of their employees and others who may be affected by their activities when at work. This includes the time when they are driving or riding at work, whether this is in a company or hired vehicle, or in the employee’s own vehicle’.

An employer’s duty of care therefore, said Specsavers Corporate Eyecare, referred to all drivers, whether they were employed specifically to drive as a main part of their role, or whether they were attending an occasional meeting.

Mr Lythgow said: “While many may wrongly assume that it is the individual’s responsibility alone to ensure their eyesight is adequate for driving, the Health and Safety Executive makes it quite clear that driving safety becomes a joint responsibility when driving for work purposes. With eye tests being so easily available and cost-effective, we would urge employers to implement an eyecare policy for all drivers.”

Industry research suggests that driving is the most dangerous work activity that most people undertake with around a third of crashes being work-related.

Specsavers Corporate Eyecare says that aside from the potential physical and emotional cost of any collision, a crash could be expensive for a business with uninsured losses such as sick pay, temporary cover, legal expenses, lost time and increased premiums.

There was also the potential damage to a company’s reputation to consider if every effort was not taken to ensure that all risks were suitably assessed and managed, as well as a possibility of corporate manslaughter charges in the event of a fatality involving a vehicle on a work-related journey.

Consequently, Mr Lythgow said: “Eye care for drivers makes sense on individual, public and corporate levels.”

Steve Bridge, managing director, Mercedes-Benz Vans UK, said in the wake of the survey: “The hard-working van community is not immune from the impact of SAD or increased isolation during the winter months, so during this period of the clocks changing, we’re determined to raise awareness of just how tiring it can be on both physical and mental health this of year.”

 

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