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Rules on Employees and Paid Eyesight Tests

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 12 Apr 2011 | comments*Discuss
Eyesight Computer Screens Vdu Health And

Employers may have a responsibility to pay for employee eyesight tests and even spectacles under certain circumstances. If an employee spends most of their working day at a computer, they may be covered by the Health and Safety Display Screen Equipment regulations.

Computer Screens and Eye Stress

A Visual Display Unit (VDU) could cause strain and stress to the eyes, especially for employees who spend a great deal of their working day in front of a computer. There is no medical evidence of display units causing deterioration in eyesight. But constantly shifting focus, reading small text and computer screen glare can cause discomfort to the eyes. Unfortunately, too many employees can sit for many hours simply staring at a computer screen, increasing the stress and strain on their eyes. Many employees can sit in front of their screens for around eight hours per day.

Entitled Breaks from Computer Screens

Employees are usually recommended to take a short break for every hour they spend working on a computer. Breaks of around five to ten minutes for every hour using a VDU are advised in health and safety regulations. This doesn’t have to mean a rest break but this short break can be spent on other workplace duties. Employers do have a responsibility to ensure that employees are comfortable at their workstation, including VDU health and safety requirements. If an employee is showing signs of eyesight or bodily stress, such as repetitive wrist injury, then an employer should assess the workstation layout.

Stress, Headaches and Eye Strain caused by VDUs

Sitting too close to a computer screen, computer screen glare and poor posture can all cause headaches and stress. In most cases, a combination of different factors can be the cause of medical complaints; for instance, work stress may be adding to a poorly set out workstation. Employees may be unaware that they already suffer from poor eyesight, and that the computer screen is simply adding to this. Sitting too close to a computer screen is an easily rectified problem, but if eyesight is deteriorating then glasses may be the only solution. If an employee is suffering from constant eye strain when using a VDU, an eye test should be considered.

Eyesight Test Paid for by Employers

Employees who are covered under the Health and Safety Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992 can request a paid eye test. Employers have a responsibility to arrange and pay for an eye test for employees who use a VDU as part of their job. This can also include employees who are not constantly using a VDU but do use them regularly as part of their employment. Employers also have a responsibility to pay for spectacles if special lenses are required; this means special glasses required when working on a VDU. Normal eyeglasses will usually come under the payment responsibility of the employee.

Requesting an Eyesight Test through an Employer

An employee who feels that a computer screen is causing eyesight problems should bring this matter to the attention of their manager. There may also be a health and safety representative who can assess the situation and look for ways to rectify problems with the workstation. If there are no problems with the workstation, then an eye test should be arranged and paid for by the employer. Employees are also entitled to further paid for eye tests if an optician deems this necessary. Employers do have a responsibility to maintain health and safety standards, and should be made aware of any problems that affect their employees.

Employers Health and Safety Responsibilities and VDUs

Employers cannot take the health and safety requirements of their employees for granted. If issues do arise, they are required to follow guidelines set out in the Health and Safety Regulations including:

  • Assessing workstations, computer monitors and seating to comply with safety requirements
  • Implementing short breaks or changing work duties for employees who spend the majority of their time on a VDU
  • If an employee does require an eye test due to VDU problems, an employer should arrange and pay for this
  • If special eye glasses are required for viewing the VDU screen, the employer should pay for this
  • An employer should pay for future eye tests at regular intervals specified by an optician or doctor
Employers should welcome health and safety issues being brought to their attention. Eyesight strain caused by a computer screen may be causing problems for other employees who are simply suffering in silence. Companies that do meet all health and safety standards will benefit from satisfied and productive employees.

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