It goes without saying that many employees spend most of their day at a computer. In fact, a survey from office suppliers Viking showed that 58% of British workers spend over five hours a day using a screen.
The survey also revealed that 8 in 10 (82%) worry about the impact this will have on their health. This is what makes working safely with display screen equipment (DSE) so important.
DSE are devices or equipment that has an alphanumeric or graphic display. This includes monitors, laptops, touch screens, or any other similar devices. Overuse of DSE, or poorly designed workstations can cause employees to experience fatigue, eye strain, backache, stress and upper limb problems.
Although the risks to users are relatively low on a short-term basis, they will get worse in the long-term if best practice is not followed.
Responsibilities for employers
Working safely with DSE should be a priority in most offices, as nearly every single one now contains this equipment. It is also legislated under the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992, amended in 2002.
The regulations require employers to carry out a display screen equipment risk assessment. An assessment on workstations used by employees should identify any hazards and reduce risks.
Employers must make sure workers take regular breaks from DSE. This can be a five-to-10 minute break every hour, if just to make a cup of tea or coffee.
Employees are also entitled to ask their employer to pay for yearly eye tests. Employers must make employees aware of this right, and how they can apply for the eye test. The tests must be carried out by a qualified optician.
Adequate health and safety training should be provided for employees. According to the Health and Safety Executive, training should be about the risks in DSE work and how to avoid these through safe working practices. It should include advice on:
Adjusting chairs and other furniture
Arranging desk space
Adjusting screens and lighting to avoid reflections and glare
Breaks and changes of activity
How to report problems
Conducting a display screen equipment assessment
A workstation assessment should consider the environment, equipment, the operator and the computer interface. The assessor should look at specific parts of the workstation, such as the monitor, keyboard, mouse, desk, temperature, humidity, software and a host of other areas to ensure compliance with the regulations.
Assessments can be carried out by someone internally within the organisation. They will need to know what is expected of them, and have the skills and knowledge to identify and flag up any risks they find. There can be more than one assessor if required.
Additionally, the assessor should be able to draw upon additional sources of information, make their own conclusions, be able to record the details of the assessment and communicate the findings to those who need to take action, as well as recognising their own limitations.
Once an assessment is complete, the employer should deal with the biggest problems first, investigate all reports of aches and pains from users, and try to identify the causes of the risks they flag up. They should also take account of any employees’ special needs, such as users with a disability.
To learn more about how to assess display screen equipment, Deminos have a specialist eLearning course dedicated to the subject.