Vision Screening for Law Enforcement Officers
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF VISION IN POLICING
While good vision is among the most important attributes for police officers to have, few police departments in the United States have undertaken any systematic study of the critical vision tasks required for police officer job performance. Fewer still have validated their vision requirements to ensure they meet the specifications imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is surprising in view of the high number of applicants who are not hired due to vision problems by police departments where effective vision screening occurs.
The significance of police vision screening was illustrated in a Los Angeles Police Department study that showed that more than 60 percent of all of the applicants who fail the preplacement medical examination do so for reasons relating to vision including poor far visual acuity, color vision deficiency or loss of visual fields (Goldberg, personnel communication,1992). This high average suggests that police departments that are not disqualifying applicants for vision-related reasons are actually hiring individuals that pose a significant risk to themselves and their fellow officers.
Sound vision screening for new hires is hampered by job descriptions that do not mention visual tasks and by vision screening that uses faulty procedures. Often there is no clear guidance to medical examiners as to what the minimum requirements for vision are in the police department. Without clear directives, only persons with the most severe visual defects may come to the attention of the department. As will be shown below, the placement of individuals with even moderate levels visual impairment can increase department liability and pose a direct threat to the health and safety of the officer and the public.
To determine the appropriate vision requirements, the central question that must be addressed is, "At what level of visual decrement would a police officer be unable to perform the critical visual tasks required by the job?" In order to respond to this question several preliminary issues must be considered including a determination of the critical vision tasks that police officers are required to perform. In order to ascertain what these tasks are, an analysis of the visual demands of the job must be performed.
There is a wide spectrum of techniques available including job diaries, subject matter expert panels, critical incident reports, etc. to determine important visual tasks. The police department should consult with the personnel department as to how to conduct a job analysis directed at ascertaining and documenting the visual tasks necessary for successful job performance. Since this is a critical step and public personnel departments are usually overwhelmed, this work is often contracted to job analysis experts outside the organization. The job analysis process must describe the task in detail as well as measure the importance, consequence of error, frequency and duration of task performance. Furthermore, environmental factors must betaken into account. For example, if critical vision tasks are performed in fog, rain, snow, bright sunlight, dimly lit rooms, outside at night, in attics or under buildings, such information must be documented...
Use of contact lenses by firefighters. Part 1: Questionnaire data.
Owen CG, Margrain TH, Woodward EG.
The use of contact lenses by firefighters is currently prohibited. However, many firefighters may benefit from this form of visual correction, without predisposing themselves to additional risk. Visual benefits gained by contact lens wear may increase a firefighter's safety. To determine if it is safe to allow firefighters to use contact lenses 29 were fitted with soft contact lenses and 21 with rigid gas permeable contact lenses. Questionnaires were completed prior to fitting, after 1, 4 and 10 months of contact lens wear. Both soft contact lens (SCL) wearers, and rigid gas permeable contact lens (RGPCL) wearers showed a statistically significantly reduction in the frequency with which they experience irritable foreign bodies and irritant fumes in the eyes, compared to not wearing contact lenses. Firefighters felt that their performance on the fireground had been improved by the use of contact lenses. SCL wearers also benefited from a reduction in the frequency with which they experienced watery eyes and ocular discomfort. There were significantly fewer problems encountered with SCL wearers than RGPCL wearers. The frequency with which firefighters experienced lenses falling out, lens displacement, watery eyes, ocular discomfort, and operational difficulties was significantly less for the SCL group than the RGPCL group. SCL appear to offer considerable benefits for firefighters with refractive error, but their use cannot be sanctioned without assessment of their effect on the ocular adnexa.
PMID: 9196672 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Use of contact lenses by firefighters: Part 2. Clinical evaluation.
Owen CG, Margrain TH, Woodward EG.
Department of Optometry and Visual Science, City University, London, UK.
Contact lenses can be worn in a variety of environmental conditions and do not increase the wearers risk of injury. In many situations they offer significant corneal protection. Currently firefighters are prohibited from using contact lenses. To evaluate whether contact lenses are a safe form of visual correction 50 firefighters were fitted, and examined after 1, 4 and 10 months of contact lens wear. Twenty-nine were fitted with soft contact lenses, and 21 with rigid gas permeable contact lenses. Statistically significant increase in lid sulcus hyperaemia was found in both the SCL and RGPCL groups (P < 0.01, P = 0.02, respectively), as well as an increase in hyperaemia of the vertical quadrant of the bulbar conjunctivae (P = 0.01, P = 0.02, respectively). In addition the RGPCL group showed a statistically significant increase in hyperaemia of the lateral portion of the bulbar conjunctivae (P < 0.01), consistent with exposure epitheliopathy. The SCL group showed statistically significant increase in corneal staining in the vertical quadrant for all visits (P = 0.02, P = 0.01, P = 0.02 for all visits, respectively), indicative of lens dehydration. These findings although clinically significant are not unique to firefighting, and are found within a "normal" population of contact lens wearers. In conjunction with questionnaire data (Owen et all, 1996) we conclude that soft contact lenses can be worn safely by firefighters without additional risk.
PMID: 9196662 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]