Employers should protect their workers from any risks and hazards that are associated with their work. Although some people may work with heavy equipment that is dangerous to operate, there is also a risk that comes along with working at computers and with display screens, and this risk should be taken just as seriously.
Users of computer equipment can experience back pain, leg pain, repetitive strain injury, tennis elbow, eye strain, headaches and more. All of these problems can be easily addressed and potentially prevented before they become a recurring issue, through the proper use of display screen equipment.
The display screen equipment regulations implemented by HSE in 1992, cover how we should work with screens and computers in order to reduce the risk of temporary or permanent injury.
Protecting the health of office workers
If you use a fixed workstation, mobile workstation or work from home, these regulations will apply to you. In order to comply with the regulations, employers should complete a workstation assessment and put into place an environment where workers are able to take regular breaks from working at the computer. Employers should also provide an eye test if it is asked for by the employee.
Aside from this, regular training should take place where workers are told how to sit properly at their desks. Although this could seem obvious: straight back, head facing the screen – it may not be possible for colleagues, in a way that you as an employer may not understand. For example, workers that use two computer screens will not be able to have a screen directly in front of them, and workers who are under average height will not be able to have their seat at the recommended height without their feet not touching the ground.
This training should be given to every new hire, as well as every year to existing staff. If staff members have injuries, pregnancies or existing illnesses like epilepsy, the training and display screen equipment assessment should be repeated in order to increase comfort and reduce the risk of injury.
The DSE workstation assessment
During the workstation assessment, employers will look at the whole workstation: the equipment itself, the office furniture, and the working conditions, as well as the job that is being done. Nowadays, with a huge amount of labour carried out digitally, there are a growing number of people who work sitting at a computer all day.
The DSE workstation assessment also takes into account special requirements such as disabilities or existing injuries that might hinder workers’ comfort levels.
If risks are identified through a DSE workstation assessment, the assessor will make recommendations that should be carried out in order to reduce any negative impact on the health and safety of the workers in question.
Workstation assessments should be undertaken whenever a new workstation is set up, a new hire starts work, a change is made to an existing workstation or workers complain of pain or discomfort.
Find the DSE workstation checklist here.
Many problems can be solved with subtle adjustments to a screen, chair, keyboard or mouse.
The desk should be large enough to accommodate everything that the user needs to complete their job. There should be enough room for workers to rest their forearms on the desk or in the keyboard position. Underneath the desk, there should be enough space to accommodate legs in a comfortable, forward-facing position. Footrests can be useful for those who are under average height.
The desk and screen should be arranged to avoid glare or reflections, and if this is not possible, there should be blinds or curtains fitted to the windows.
Designing the perfect workstation
Although these points cover many things included in DSE regulations, please view the full list of DSE regulations for an exhaustive list.
There should be space in front of the keyboard for workers to rest their hands and wrists. If necessary, workers can use a wrist support or ergonomic keyboard to ease the strain on the fingers and wrists.
The mouse should be within easy reach and should have enough room to move around the whole computer screen. If necessary, workers can make use of a mousepad with wrist support to minimise strain.
It is possible to adjust the brightness and contrast to mitigate glare from windows or overhead lights – workers should be shown how to do this according to their personal preference. In order to minimise the risk of neck strain and shoulder pain, the screen should be directly in front of the user’s head when they are sitting straight at their desk.
Disclaimer: The information provided through Greenham Pulse is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Greenham Pulse is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.