All I want is 20/20 vision

01 March 2017

Brexit notwithstanding, revised regulations for the European Train Drivers’ Licence come into force next year. ASLEF’s assistant general secretary Simon Weller explains what the medical changes will mean for us:

 

EyesightWhilst the media may be full of the Conservative government’s plans for a hard Brexit from the European Union the revised European Train Drivers’ Licence is still due to take effect for all drivers, new and existing, in 2018. There is no reason to believe that the current disarray at Westminster will stop it. In the revised regulations there are a number of medical changes that will affect us.

There is a proposed increase in frequency of medical checks (every three years until 55 then annually after that) and, in light of the German Wings’ air crash, a renewed emphasis on psychological checks – it’s not just the British who have a penchant for knee jerk reactions…

The increase in medical frequency may help in early detection and treatment of illnesses or conditions that could have a long-term and life-changing effect on a driver.

There are also proposals to make post-traumatic support for train drivers a requirement for railway undertakings. A welcome development which we, as representatives from the European Transport Federation, were instrumental in achieving.

 

FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE

However, the fundamental change is to vision standards. The standard for vision which has been in force since 2010 in Annex II (1.2 Vision) of the current directive says the following requirements as regards vision must be complied with:

  • aided or unaided distance visual acuity: 1.0, minimum of 0.5 for the worse eye.
  • maximum corrective lenses: hypermetropia + 5/myopia 8. Derogations are authorised in exceptional cases and after having obtained the opinion of an eye specialist. The medical doctor then takes the decision.
  • near and intermediate vision: sufficient, whether aided or unaided.
  • contact lenses and glasses are authorised when periodically checked by a specialist.
  • normal colour vision: use of a recognised test, such as Ishihara, as well as another recognised test if required.
  • field of vision: full.
  • vision for both eyes: effective; not required when person has adequate adaptation and sufficient compensation experience. Only in case he lost binocular vision after starting his job.
  • binocular vision: effective.
  • recognition of colour signals: the test shall be based on recognition of single colours and not on relative differences.
  • sensitivity to contrasts: good.
  • no progressive eye diseases.
  • lens implants, keratotomies and keratectomies are allowed only on condition that they are checked on a yearly basis or at intervals set by the medical doctor.
  • ability to withstand dazzle.
  • coloured contact lenses and photochromatic lenses are not allowed. UV filter lenses are allowed.

 

PROPOSED REVISIONS

The proposed revisions, to take effect in 2018, will means that the following requirements as regards vision must be complied with:

  • aided or unaided distance visual acuity: minimum 0.7 for the better eye and 0.5 for the worse eye.
  • maximum corrective lenses: hypermetropia + 5/myopia -8. Derogations are authorised in exceptional cases and after having obtained the opinion of an eye specialist. The medical doctor then takes the decision,
  • near and intermediate vision: sufficient, whether aided or unaided.
  • contact lenses and glasses are authorised when periodically checked by a specialist.
  • normal colour vision: use of Ishihara completed by another recognised test if necessary.
  • field of vision: sufficient.
  • binocular vision: sufficient.
  • sensitivity to contrasts: sufficient.
  • no progressive eye diseases.
  • lens implants, keratotomies and keratectomies are allowed only on condition that they are checked at intervals set by the medical doctor.
  • ability to withstand dazzle.
  • coloured contact lenses and photochromatic lenses are not allowed. UV filter lenses are allowed.

 

UNNECESSARY SURGERY

As you can see, in the changes there is a relaxation of the best eye standard (from 1.0 to 0.7) while the worse eye remains the same at 0.5. As a general rule exceptional vision is 2.0, average is 1.0 and poor is 0.20.

There is no minimum ‘uncorrected’ vision requirement, just a maximum permissible correction level. This remains the same as now. If the test is taken with glasses the maximum correction is limited to hypermetropia + 5 and myopia -8. Crudely put, this is the ‘thickness’ of the lens.

There is also a proposed relaxation of standards in relation to field of vision, binocular vision, and sensitivity to contrasts; these now only need to be ‘sufficient’.

As it stands, the suggested changes to medical standards should not cause undue concern for existing train drivers but it seems there is some confusion and a belief that requirements that are more restrictive are proposed.

We have had a number of cases where individual members are being told, incorrectly, by managers that the changes will mean they will no longer drive. In one case the driver paid for eye surgery out of his own pocket. Surgery which carried a real risk of sight loss that may have been totally unnecessary.

If you are being told by your manager that the vision requirements are becoming more stringent please speak to your district organiser.

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