There are very few employees who do not work with Display Screen Equipment (DSE) for at least some of their role. Employees are protected by DSE legislation as long as they use DSE for an hour or more for any of their work-related tasks. Many people think DSE use is low-risk and take it for granted because it has become such an everyday task. However, used incorrectly, DSE can cause a long list of unpleasant issues and conditions.
It is important that everyone understands how to identify devices that are classed as DSE. This includes anything that has a graphic or alphanumeric display screen includes all the devices you would expect, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and computers as well as some you wouldn’t, like pocket calculators and televisions.
Up to 52% of DSE users have reported suffering from headaches, eye strain, neck pain and other DSE related issues due to poor practise and as such, the risk of harm is high and all DSE tasks must be risk assessed, controlled and frequently reviewed.
What you’re not responsible for
Employers are only responsible for minimising risk caused by equipment that they have provided to the employee, so if the employee has provided their own laptop, it is up to them to ensure it is safe and appropriate for use. However, if they decide it is not and the employer requires them to use a laptop, the employer must provide this.
Poor DSE practice can result in a number of issues of varying severity, including:
- Repetitive Strain Injuries
- Back pain
- Eye Strain
- Upper Limb Problems
- Musculoskeletal Disorders
What do I have to do?
As an employer, you are legally obligated to ensure that all staff required to use display screen equipment (DSE) for an hour or more at a time have a suitable and safe workspace and are adhering to guidelines to reduce the associated risks.
Managing the risks of DSE is not as simple as the employer providing all the correct equipment as the employee could subsequently set it up incorrectly or not take adequate screen breaks and as such, training and guidance is absolutely essential.
You should complete a thorough risk assessment which covers all aspects of the task. The following should be taken into consideration within the risk assessment:
- Suitability of desks/workspaces.
- Suitability of available chairs.
- Positioning, size and features of keyboards, mice or other input devices.
- Space available on the desk, under it and around it.
- Lighting .
- Anything that creates a risk for slips, trips and falls.
- Employee posture.
- Requirements for eye testing.
To further reduce the risk, you need to make sure your staff are aware of the risks and how to control or prevent them. Taking the following steps will ensure your staff can work safely:
- Circulate your DSE risk assessment and ensure all staff required to work with DSE have seen and acknowledged the content. Ensure it is updated regularly and whenever anything changes.
- Distribute a toolbox talk on DSE.
- Ensure all staff complete a DSE training course.
- Ask all staff to complete a DSE assessment.
- Provide funding for eye tests and basic frames and lenses for all staff.
Once the toolbox talk and training course have been acknowledged and completed, the employee should be competent to fill out their own DSE assessment however, this is often done by a competent person. These results should be reviewed so any issues highlighted can be addressed. The results including any issues reported along with the changes made should be stored until the assessment is next due. Ideally, DSE assessments should be completed annually but they also should be repeated whenever something changes.
DSE assessments help businesses to identify issues quickly. You can use our free interactive DSE assessment tool which is fully compliant. The questions in the assessment address the following issues:
- Display quality.
- The workstation set up – height and positioning of all equipment.
- Adequate space – on the desk, under the desk and around the desk.
- Ability to take breaks.
- Suitability of device – laptops, for example, are not meant for long term use due to issues with height and positioning – a raiser block and plugin input devices can be used to help with this.
- Availability of eye tests.
- Availability of funding for basic glasses.
Dos and don’ts of DSE
- take regular screen breaks;
- assess every desk or workspace you use;
- report any health issues experienced;
- arrange regular eye tests as recommended by an optician;
- wear glasses if you have been prescribed them whilst using DSE;
- repeat DSE assessments manually; and
- be aware of your posture.
- use laptops for long periods without a raiser block;
- use any devices with flickering or distorted displays;
- forget to complete a new assessment when something changes; and
- ignore symptoms caused by poor DSE.
Find out more
HSE’s guidance on DSE provides further practical advice on how to comply with the law and the safe use of display screen equipment. It also contains useful links to other resources and guidance.
For more help, you can use our interactive DSE assessment tool for free, as many times as you like.