Vision and Work

Vision and Work

image of vision testing equipment
Optometrist Equipment to examine the eye

Vision is one of the key senses we use to protect ourselves and others, but this tends to deteriorate over time.

In order to drive vehicles, from cars (Class 1) to the biggest lorries (Class 2) – vision is an important aspect of safety on the road.

The Driver Vehicle Licensing Authority has consulted with various safety bodies and upgraded the vision requirements for driving

Vision – All Drivers

 Must still be able to read a number plate (post-1.9.2001 font) from 20 metres, with corrective lenses if necessary. 

  • Must also have a binocular visual acuity of 0.5 (6/12), with corrective lenses if necessary, but we will not require drivers to have their eyesight tested as part of the application process for a car/motorcycle licence.
  • If a driver is told by their doctor or optometrist that they cannot meet 0.5 (6/12) with glasses they must tell DVLA
  • Drivers who cannot meet this standard will not be licensed.   
  • Bioptic (telescope) devices are still not permitted for driving in the UK.

Vision Group 2 (lorry and bus) drivers

  • Must have a visual acuity of 6/7.5 in the better eye and the worse eye standard has reduced to 6/60.
  • If you wear glasses, they may not be stronger than +8 dioptres (dioptres = strength of the glasses lens)
  • If a doctor completing a medical examination required for lorry and bus driver licensing cannot measure 6/7.5 on the Snellen Chart or interpret a driver’s glasses prescription (where glasses are worn), the driver will need to have the vision assessment section of the D4 examination

Computer (DSE) Users

Under the Display Screen Equipment Regulations, employers have to offer an eyesight test to those who are classified as a computer user and this can be done via occupational health or optometrist.  For information about eye-testing services in the UK see this article NHS eyecare services

Occupational Health health professionals can do the vision screening but it’s important to remember that in the Regulations –

Individuals can insist on having a full test via an optometrist.  I believe it is better to pay for the full eye test in the first place as this will save time if an individual needs glasses anyway (they must have a full eyesight test for this), and totally meets the requirements of legislation and, most importantly, checks the eye for general health issues such as glaucoma.

Occupational Health  Eyesight Screening

In the workplace, visual acuity is usually measured using the Snellen scale or an automated machine such as a Keystone.

A Snellen test usually consists of a number of rows of letters which get smaller as you read down the chart.

Snellen Test (Technical Explanation)

image of snellen chart for vision
Snellen Chart

On the Snellen scale, normal visual acuity is called 6/6, which corresponds to the bottom or second bottom line of the chart. If you can only read the top line of the chart then this would be written as 6/60. This means you can see at 6 metres what someone with standard vision could see from 60 metres away. Snellen test results are always written as a fraction, that is, 6/60 or 3/60.

The first number given is the distance in metres from the chart you sit when you read it. Usually, this is a 6 for 6 metres but would be 3 if you were to sit closer to the chart, ie 3 metres away. The second number corresponds to the number of lines that you are able to read on the chart. The biggest letters, on the top line, correspond to 60. As you read down the chart, the numbers that correspond to the lines get smaller, ie 36, 18, 12, 9 and 6. The bottom line of the chart corresponds to the number 6.

Someone with standard vision who could read the bottom line of the chart would have a Snellen score of 6/6

Addition to Snellen

The Driving Vehicle Licensing Authority’s new standard for vision (see above) for Class 2 drivers states that the applicant’s visual acuity must be at least 6/7.5 (decimal 0.8) of a new Snellen chart. Which means a new line of 6/7.5 will need adding to the Snellen chart).  If there is no facility to measure this new standard then the applicant needs to go to an optician or optometrist.

For Distant vision:

The person sits or stands at 6 metres, and reads down the vision chart from the largest letter at the top to the smallest letter at the bottom.  The chart is a large card or a lighted box, which displays the letters.  Ensure the contrast between white and black lettering has not faded over time and it’s vital to have good light to use the vision test card and the lightbox.

Test visual acuity without using corrective spectacles or contact lenses, and then with them.

Near Vision

Test near or reading vision by using a test card. Test each eye individually.

The card has the number of printed paragraphs with the print of varying sizes. The paragraphs start tiny and get bigger with each labelled “points” measuring the body of the print. A “point” being 1/72 of an inch. In a common test, N48 is the largest type, and N5 is the smallest, which an unimpaired eye can see, held at a comfortable reading distance, (usually 14 inches), from the eyes.

Test cards are available from medical suppliers.

Keystone Vision Testing

My favourite vision testing apparatus for Occupational Health work is the Keystone Machine – here is the video from Warwick Evans which shows you how to use. Once you learn the ‘script’ of explanation it becomes straightforward to do the test.  Costs are in the region of £1700 + VAT but consider buying second-hand.

Corporate Schemes for Vision Testing

I used to use a couple of the voucher systems for eyesight testing for both DSE, safety specs and drivers and they were brilliant in their time – however, we had a real problem with the vouchers expiring (they have about a 3-month shelf life). We would buy books of the vouchers which expired after three months with no refunds. The employees sometimes took the vouchers and lost them in a pocket or ‘forgot’ to make an appointment. There is a system to send back any ‘about to expire’ vouchers but it was time-consuming. I needed a new system. Also, big companies find it difficult to issue quickly when needed.

My answer was to go to a big supermarket chain who had an optician in store. They offered online access to vouchers that never expired. There were discounts available for friends and family and points on purchases.  Parking was easy too.  But the best advantage was the automated invoicing system. The only downside that I discovered was that there were not many Tesco optician outlets in an area of Scotland.

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