Display screen equipment - previously known as visual display units are used by millions of people every day, myself included, not only as I write this blog post, but I also spent a year working in a call centre for a huge company. So, other than the very angry people and the KPIs you had to entertain, one thing this particular company did get right were their obligations under the Display Screen Equipment Regulations (1992 & 2002).
Chairs were provided which adjusted in every which way, as did the computer monitors, as well as the regular offering of eye tests. The company also took occupational health very seriously and wouldn't hesitate to purchase order equipment specifically designed for someone when their generic equipment wasn't suitable for someone with specific conditions. The occupational health desks being known colloquially as the robodesk.
To clarify - display screen equipment includes computers, laptops, touch screens and other devices that incorporate an alphanumeric or graphic display. A user is someone who habitually uses DSE as part of their normal work. This piece isn't aimed at people who use display screen equipment infrequently. An operator is a self-employed worker who habitually uses DSE for a significant part of their work.
Some of the risks when using Display Screen Equipment
Without proper instruction, most employees remain unaware of the serious impact the incorrect setup and use of DSE can have in the long term. It is a known fact that poorly arranged or equipped workstations are a major contributing factor of many work-related upper limb disorders, which can cause avoidable pain in both the short and long term. Other issues created by not addressing poorly designed workstations include fatigue, repetitive strain injury, carpal tunnel syndrome and eye strain leading to headaches and damage to eyesight.
- A lot of employees are unaware of the impact on health a poorly arranged workstation can have.
- Poorly arranged or equipped workstations are a major contributing factor in the development of many work-related upper limb disorders (WRULDs).
- Conditions can be both short and long term.
- Avoidable pain.
- Fatigue caused by poorly designed or incorrectly adjusted workstations.
- Repetitive strain injury (RSI) and carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Eye strain leading to headaches and damage to eyesight.
A few of your legal duties
You can find a full layout of your legal requirements in the HSE's brief guide to Display Screen Equipment below. Prior to starting work a full risk assessment must be undertaken to outline the potential risks to your employee's health and safety and a plan must be enacted to reduce or remove the discovered risks. In the call centre I worked in, the equipment adjusted to however you needed it and this is vital, not only under the law but comfortable staff are more productive. Breaks from using DSE are vital, short frequent breaks are better and these breaks don't necessarily mean to stop working entirely, only that they should be away from DSE. Employers must offer free eye tests to all DSE users, as well as meeting the cost of basic glasses, this does not, however include designer frames. A lot of employees will choose to pay the additional cost for designer frames.
- DSE Regulations 1992 - http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg36.pdf
- Risk assessment.
- Workstations must meet basic requirements that enable adjustment to the user's needs.
- Account must be taken of daily work routines so that adequate breaks can be incorporated into the daily routine. This doesn't always mean a break away from work, but away from DSE. This is a good time to make use of daily briefings etc.
- Short, frequent breaks (which are better than longer breaks) are required.
- Free eye examinations must be provided upon request, the full cost must remain with the employer and pay for basic glasses if required for DSE work.
- The employer does NOT have to pay for designer frames, but many employers will contribute the cost of basic glasses to the total.
DSE employee training
As with most areas of work, certain training practices must be used to ensure employees are kept safe and are aware of the potential risks when it comes working with display screen equipment. You must also provide your staff with the knowledge and means to clean the mouse, keyboard and computer monitors. Another reason to ensure the correct method of cleaning is undertaken is to protect your equipment from any unnecessary damage. You should also provide your employees with an internal point of contact for any concerns or queries with regards to DSE.
- Ensure employees are aware of the risks.
- How to adjust their workstations, including desks, chairs and computer monitors.
- As per the HSE's booklet (link above), organisation of the workstation to avoid awkward or frequently repeated stretching movements.
- How and what to use to clean the mouse, keyboard and monitors.
- The internal point of contact for DSE concerns.
- How to use the DSE workstation checklist (link below).
- You or a competent person must carry out a risk assessment of workstations used by employees to reduce any identified risks.
- Employees take regular breaks from looking at their screen - this doesn't necessarily mean breaks from work, only from using display screen equipment.
- Employers must ensure that employees are aware of their entitlement to yearly eye tests, with the cost being met by their employer in full. A competent person must carry out any eye test, this means a qualified optician.
- Make sure employees are aware of and can spot the risks of DSE.
- Employers must provide their display screen equipment users with adequate health and safety training for any workstation they work at, including adjusting chairs and computer screens.
- Risk assessments should also be carried out by home workers, starting with the HSE's checklist here: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/ck1.pdf