Health & Safety at Work – using DSE

Common features of many workstations are laptops, touch-screens or other similar electronic devices that are equipped with some form of a display screen. However, if your workstation is improperly organised, these devices could cause you to develop upper limb disorders as well as fatigue and eye strain. While most of these conditions are not considered life threatening, they can be costly to treat and possibly even debilitating.

Therefore, it is important that you mitigate the potential risks by implementing one of more of the following three strategies:

1. Adopt proper posture.

• Sit close enough to your keyboard so that your shoulders, wrists and hands are relaxed.
• Sit up straight so that your back is firmly but comfortably against the chair back and your feet are flat on the floor.
• Have enough room below your desk to sufficiently stretch your legs.

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2. Ensure that your workstation is well-organised.

• Arrange your desk to accommodate all necessary documents and other office equipment.
• Position your monitor directly in front of you at eye level so that you do not have to twist or turn your neck.
• Aim your monitor away from any windows to reduce glare, which, over an extended period of time, could lead to sore eyes or headaches.

3. Take a break from your work.

• Take three one- to two-minute breaks each hour to exercise your eyes by focusing on a distant object and then at an object nearby.
• Take a five-minute break each hour to stretch and relax your back, neck, arm and leg muscles. A walk around the office is a good way to do this.

Obligations for Employers

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 require employers to carry out an analysis and assessment of the work stations their employees use.

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.