There are many health risks a worker faces while using display screen equipment (DSE).

The Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992 apply to any worker or employee who uses DSE on a daily basis, for one hour or more at a time. The most common DSE includes PCs, tablets, smartphones, and laptops.

This workstation assessment law applies to users who are:

  • At a fixed workstation.
  • Home workers.
  • Mobile workers.
  • Hot-desking.*

For anyone who doesn’t use display screen equipment at work this much, the regulations do not apply. But, best practice may be to adopt the same principles to control the risk.

What is DSE?

DSE is the common term for equipment relating to screens and display. It used to be VDU—Visual Display Unit.

Create a display screen equipment policy

Long spells of DSE work can lead to tired eyes, discomfort, temporary short-sightedness and headaches.

Sitting at a workstation during those long spells can cause backache, muscle discomfort, or fatigue, any of which can lead to problems with joints and work-related upper limb disorders, or WRULDs—more commonly referred to as ULDs.

Given that any of these ailments can lead to long-term suffering and potential absence or claims, a rigorous Display Screen Equipment policy will help you reduce the risk of injury or pain to DSE users.

In your DSE policy, you should include details of:

  • How to set up a workstation.
  • Doing a DSE risk assessment.
  • Known risks of poorly designed workstations.
  • Eye tests.
  • Any other information.

How should you set up a workstation?

First, begin with a Display Screen Equipment risk assessment or DSE assessment, to find out how you can improve the workstations for yourself and your staff.

  • Forearms should be virtually horizontal when positioned to type at your desk.
  • Feet on the floor without pressure from the seat edge on the back of knees and legs—if someone can't do this, provide them with a footrest.
  • Your chair must fully support your back, letting you sit upright, and the backrest should tilt.**
  • Eyes should be approximately level with the top of the screen.
  • Place your keyboard at the front of your desk, leaving a space to rest your hands and wrists when you're not typing.
  • Keep your mouse close to the keyboard, supporting the forearm on the desk. Relax the arm and press controls lightly.

Limit prolonged use, and take regular breaks from the screen. You could implement this via task rotation or planned changes in activity, or by taking scheduled breaks.

Be aware that everyone is different, and not all standard furniture will meet the needs of all your staff, some may have specific needs that you must try to accommodate.

DSE user eye tests

Under the DSE Regulations 1992, by law, you only need to provide eye tests for employees if the use of DSE is a significant part of their day-to-day work and they are classed as a user.

Common employee question: should my employer pay for my eye test?

When the employer deems an employee is a DSE user, they should make an eye test available upon request. The employer or agency should meet the cost. Where an eye test shows that the employee needs special corrective appliances (typically glasses) for DSE work, the employer or agency should pay the cost of the basic frames and lenses (glasses).

An employer will not need to pay for ordinary prescriptions where the employee wears glasses for general use.

However, more and more employers are extending free eye tests and contributions towards glasses prescriptions to fulfil their duty of care to all staff, and reduce risks for occupational drivers.

Need help?

Worried about where to begin with your DSE policy? Not sure if you need to pay for employees' eye tests?

BrightHR can help you for as little as £3 per month.

Book your free demo of BrightHR today and make the most of our employment law and health & safety advice.

*If you or any of your staff hot-desk throughout the day, you should do a basic DSE risk assessment each time you come to a desk to work.

**You should move your body and change your posture regularly during the day to protect your spine.

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