Display screen equipment (DSE) is equipment and devices with an alphanumeric or graphic display screen. This includes PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones as well as less typical equipment such as microfiche readers. The legislation governing its use includes the Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992 as well as the updated Display Screen Equipment Regulations 2002. Throughout this article we will focus on the initial DSE Regulations 1992. Prolonged and regular use of DSE comes hand in hand with a number of health risks. The most common complications are: musculoskeletal problems, headaches, tired eyes and mental stress. In order to mitigate these risks, employers have a range of responsibilities surrounding their DSE users. Requirements include: assessing risks, managing workloads, providing training, ensuring workstations are adequate and providing eyecare when required.
Which Employees are covered by the Legislation?
Not everybody who uses DSE is classed as a DSE user. In order to qualify as a DSE user employees must use DSE pretty much every day for an hour or more continuously. They must also have to transfer data quickly to or from the DSE. Additionally, they must fulfil at least one of the following criteria:
- Be required to use very high levels of attention and concentration
- Be highly dependent on the DSE, or have little choice over using it
- Need specialist training and/or skills in order to operate the DSE
It is important that employers correctly identify DSE users so they can ensure they are fulfilling their responsibilities. However, this does not mean that workers who fall short of qualifying as DSE users should have their DSE related needs disregarded.
A DSE workstation includes keyboards, mouses, display screens, software, furniture and immediate environmental factors. All of which can impact a worker whilst they operate DSE. For example, using a chair that has not been adjusted to your height can cause back pain, whilst using a monitor which has poorly suited brightness and contrast settings could result in eye tiredness and headaches. DSE users must complete a workstation assessment which is designed to help identify any risks. In order for workers to perform these assessments themselves, they must first receive training on how to do so. The intention is that identification of any inadequacies will facilitate action to mitigate these risks. Any special requirements of the user (e.g. disability) should be taken into account whilst performing this assessment.
It is recommended that DSE users structure their work so that they spend at least five minutes of every hour doing non-DSE tasks. These tasks may include photocopying, filing and making phone calls. As an employer you must ensure that an employee's workload is suitable to facilitate adoption of this structure. You should also ensure that workers are taking it upon themselves to implement this practice. Break monitoring software can be installed to encourage users to take breaks; however, it is still your responsibility to ensure this guidance is being adhered to. Encouraging regular breaks helps to avoid tired eyes and headaches, whilst standing up and away from your workstation helps to avoid musculoskeletal problems.
Regular DSE use has been found to be associated with eye fatigue (which just means tired eyes). This is exacerbated by a poorly suited workstation, screen glare and unsuitable contrast and brightness settings. Whilst DSE use is not thought to be associated with any long-term deterioration in eyesight, employers are obliged by law to offer DSE users an eye test if requested. This can be through issuing an eye care voucher or alternatively by arranging a test through a workplace healthcare scheme. Similarly, if workers are prescribed glasses specifically for DSE use, you are obliged to provide them with a basic pair of glasses.
Training and Information
Education is arguably the most powerful tool at your disposal. Conveying the importance of good DSE practices helps to ensure that your employees take this issue as seriously as you do, meaning they will be more proactive and responsible for their own health. Additionally, proper education about how they should arrange their workspace, how they should structure their day and any exercises they can perform throughout the day, will all help to protect their health. The Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992 outline an employer's responsibility to provide health and safety training to all DSE users.
Why are the Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992 Important?
The Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992 are important because they protect the health and safety of your DSE users. As an employer it is your legal, as well as moral, responsibility to protect those who work for you. Failure to comply with the regulations could result in you being issued with an Improvement Notice, which will be followed by a number of progressively more severe penalties. In order to avoid these repercussions and to ensure your workplace is a safe and enjoyable place to work, it is vitally important that you embrace the legislation. Whilst the regulations outline the minimum expected health and safety standards surrounding DSE use, it can be beneficial to employers and workers alike to improve all areas of DSE use beyond what is expected.