Many people use Display Screen Equipment (DSE) as a part of their daily work routine. The most common type of DSE is a desktop computer, but the term can refer to any device with a display including tablets, laptops and touch screens.
Unfortunately, the improper or intensive use of display screen equipment has been linked to a variety of health complaints. Those health complaints include repetitive strain injuries (RSI), back pain, visual fatigue and stress.
However, it isn’t all doom and gloom! With a correctly setup workstation, it is possible to use DSE safely and efficiently for long periods. Using workstations that are configured for the health and safety of staff members can also greatly increase productivity and help staff avoid illnesses.
This article will explain some of the obligations for employers in providing safe DSE workstations. It will then offer some fantastic tips that allow staff members to safely use DSE in the workplace.
THE OBLIGATIONS OF EMPLOYERS
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 were introduced to protect the health of employees who use DSE. The regulations give employers clear guidelines on the correct use of DSE and how to create safe workstations for staff. The HSE provides a free PDF (PDF) to make understanding these obligations very simple. The key obligations for employers include:
• Identifying workstations with DSE
• Performing a risk assessment on those workstations
• Providing the appropriate equipment which allows workstations with DSEs to be used safely
• Offering staff members who use DSE regular breaks or changes of activity to prevent eye strain and repetitive strain injuries
• Providing information to staff so they can use their workstations safely
• The use of DSE assessment to ensure staff members are using their workstation appropriately
The HSE suggests that workstations should have:
• A stable chair that can be adjusted so the staff member achieves correct posture
• A screen with adjustable brightness and contrast controls. The screen’s image must be stable and clear
• A workspace large enough to hold all of the necessary equipment
• If a keyboard is being used, it should have a tilt function
• If required, additional equipment including a footrest and wrist rest should be available.
There is also a range of environmental factors that must be addressed by employers. They include giving employees adequate space to correctly set up their workstation, providing adequate lighting for both reading and using DSE, keeping the work environment at acceptable temperature and humidity levels, and having a limit on the amount of noise in the work environment.
HEALTH RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH INCORRECT SCREEN USE
It is important to understand the kinds of health risks associated with improper use of DSE. Understanding the health risks helps employers and staff members identify problems with a workstation before it becomes a serious issue. The most common health complaints suffered by staff using DSE at an incorrectly configured workstation include:
• Temporary Visual Fatigue
Prolonged use of DSE may cause temporary visual fatigue. If a workstation has poor lighting, a low-resolution display unit, glare, flickering lights, or a poorly positioned DSE it may result in visual fatigue. These environmental aspects can be addressed by both employers and employees.
• Upper Limb Disorders
These are repetitive strain injuries that can affect the neck, shoulders, arms, wrists and fingers. Upper limb disorders are fairly common with people who are using a computer in a workstation that is poorly setup.
• Backache and Muscle Fatigue
Staff members who spend many hours in a poorly configured workstation may also experience muscle pain and a sore back.
• Temporary Eye Problems and Headaches
Some people experience eye pain, blurry vision and headaches from using DSE for long periods. Regular breaks should be taken to avoid these problems
• Stress and Fatigue
When a staff member is suffering from aches and pains resulting from a poorly configured workstation, it can result in increased stress or fatigue.
SETTING UP A WORKSTATION
A well set up workstation encourages proper posture. Because people come in different shapes and sizes, each workstation must be uniquely tailored to the person who typically works there. All equipment should be easily adjustable, so workstations which are used by multiple staff members can accommodate their unique requirements. The following tips can help you set up your workstation appropriately:
• Adjust your chair correctly
Adjust the backrest so it aligns with the natural curve of your back. Change the height of the chair so your elbows are at 90 degrees and your forearms are parallel to the desktop. Your wrists should be straight and supported by the armrests or table.
• Use a footrest
If your feet are dangling off the ground, use a footrest
• Sit close to the desk
You should move your body close to the desk so your wrists are supported and you aren’t leaning forward.
• Raise of lower the height of the monitor
When seated at the desk, the top of the monitor should be at eye level.
• Avoid repetitive movements
Even with a well set up workstation, RSI can occur if a staff member performs the same action for long periods. Use keyboard shortcuts to avoid pressing the same keys repeatedly and take regular breaks.
• Offer training on health and safety issues related to DSE
Training on health and safety issues in the workplace is crucial. By education staff, they can identify and avoid common mistakes that lead to injuries or illnesses.
• Have a DSE assessment performed
A DSE assessment can help ensure staff members are working in a safe environment. The assessor will ensure the DSE meets regulatory requirements and can help the staff member set up their workstation correctly. This will prevent any health problems from occurring in the first place and help the staff member work productively.
Hot desking is when multiple people use the same workstation at different times. A common problem with this type of work environment is that staff will use a shared workstation without adjusting its settings.
Employees should be encouraged to change the workstation to suit their preferences and requirements. That may include adjusting the seat position and height, monitor brightness, monitor contrast, monitor height, foot rest height, wrist rest position and so on. It is a good idea to use reminders in shared workstations that encourage staff to make these changes and be mindful of their posture.
In recent years, a number of studies have found a correlation between sitting for long periods and an increase in the likelihood of illness. Scientists have even developed a name for the phenomena — they have labeled it “sitting disease”.
In an effort to reduce the number of hours that staff spend sitting down, many workplaces are investing in standing desks. Standing desks give the user the option of working while sitting down or standing up. It takes seconds for a user to change the position of their desk and helps to reduce the risk of illnesses from operation DSE furlong periods.
Harrier UK Ltd provides health and safety training to organisations across the United Kingdom. Our DSE assessment services will ensure that your staff are happy, healthy and productive.
Contact us now on 01332 460703 or read more on our website.