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This page gives advice on health and safety issues around the use of display screen equipment, including computer work stations, and working practices that can help avoid injury to the user.
You will also find details of legal duties and obligations, and links to further information.
Display Screen Equipment (DSE) is sometimes referred to as Visual Display Units (VDU) or Computer Workstations and includes laptops, touch-screens and other similar devices that incorporate a display screen.
Any item of computer-related equipment including the computer, display, keyboard, mouse, desk and chair can be considered part of the DSE work station.
Other important definitions:
User: an employee who habitually uses DSE as a significant part of their normal work. If someone uses DSE continuously for periods of an hour or more on most days worked, they are likely to be classified as a user.
Operator: a self-employed worker who habitually uses DSE for a significant part of their work.
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Many employers and employees are completely unaware of the impact on health that a poorly arranged work station can have.
A poorly equipped and arranged work station is a major contributing factor in the development of many work-related upper limb disorders (WRULDs). Conditions can be both short and long term but in most cases cause a lot of avoidable pain, discomfort and stress. Other associated symptoms include temporary eyestrain and headaches, and fatigue/stress.
The hazards associated with DSE work stations must therefore be properly assessed so that they are adequately equipped and adjustable to suit the user’s needs.
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 These regulations require employers to carry out an analysis and assessment of the work station.
Work stations must meet certain basic requirements that enable them to be appropriately adjusted and used without unacceptable risks to health and safety.
Account must also be taken of daily work routines so that adequate breaks can be incorporated into the working day. This does not necessarily mean a complete break away from work, but a break from the DSE work (e.g. making phone calls, filing or other work that allows staff a change of activity and gets them away from the screen).
It is better if the work allows for natural breaks but it is possible to install software that can indicate when it would be appropriate for someone to take a break. Short frequent breaks are better than fewer longer breaks.
Appropriate information, instruction and training should be provided to users so that they can use the equipment provided effectively and information on eye examinations.
Free eye examinations for persons identified as users must be provided on request. The employer is responsible for paying for tests and for basic spectacles if they are required for DSE work.
The employer does not have to pay for designer frames or other additional features but many employers contribute the equivalent cost of basic spectacles if the employee pays the additional cost.
Healthy Working Lives has produced a DSE Risk Assessment Form that can help you with this process. The form takes you through the assessment process as well as offering advice that could help you to remedy some of the problems you may have in the assessment.
→ Download the DSE work station assessment form (PDF 106 KB)
To view the full text of the above legislation online, please follow the links under Legislation.
An increasing number of people are spending more time working from home. If that work involves the use of DSE the employer should make sure that a risk assessment is carried out for the DSE work station used at home.
Laptops are used by many home workers. Laptops are primarily designed for short-term use. If they are used frequently, or for long periods, docking stations, separate keyboards and mice should be provided.
This enables the laptop user to adjust the work station in a manner most comfortable for them.
As with other aspects of health and safety the action required depends on the outcome of the Risk Assessment.
→ My secretary has had to see a physiotherapist because of repetitive strain injury (RSI). Is her work station to blame?
→ I work with computers. Should my employer pay for me to have an eyesight test?
Free guidance from Healthy Working Lives
Free guidance from the Health and Safety Executive Note - all links are to external pages on the HSE website giving options to download or order these resources:
Priced guidance from the Health and Safety Executive Note – all links are to external pages on the HSE website giving options to order these resources:
→ View The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 (external site).
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