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Frequently asked questions - display screen equipment

Is there any specific health and safety legislation in relation to using computers at work?

Yes - the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations.  The main duties placed on employers are to identify 'users' of display screen equipment (DSE) and ensure workstations meet minimum requirements set out by the Regulations through risk assessment processes.

How has the University approached this?

The university has in place a specific policy for ensuring health and safety whilst working at display screen equipment. This forms part of the university's overall health and safety policy document.  The specific policy sets out what is required of academic schools, support services and campuses, giving accompanying guidance, to ensure compliance with the regulations.

How are workstations assessed?

Each member of staff who uses DSE is a key component in the workstation assessment process of their workstation.  They must complete a DSE self-assessment questionnaire for their workstation.  Completed questionnaires are then analysed by staff appointed to the role of DSE Assessment Coordinator within their, school, support service or campus. Coordinators then follow up on any issues with staff who have identified these through their questionnaire. These can be addressed by discussion and simple workstation adjustments, more detailed assessment and/or purchase of new equipment.

For further information on the university's DSE assessment process is given within the specific DSE policy.

The regulations and the university's specific policy refer to 'users' of DSE. What is the criteria to be classed as a 'user'?

The regulations define a 'user' as "an employee who habitually uses display screen equipment as a significant part of his normal work". To determine if a member of staff is classed as a 'user', the university's specific policy applies the following criteria:

  • Daily total time spent using DSE is greater than two hours, member of staff is a 'user'.
  • Daily total time spent using DSE is between one hour and two hours, further assessment of the individual's activities is required.
  • Daily total time is less than one hour, member of staff is not a 'user'. The daily total times must be averaged over a significant period, such as a week.

Do 'users' of DSE have any specific entitlements?

Under the regulations 'users' must have

  • Access to eye and eyesight tests;
  • The basic pair of spectacles if required specifically for DSE work; and
  • Subsequent eye and eyesight tests at intervals recommended by the optometrist

All of these are at no cost to the individual. The university's scheme for this is coordinated by the Occupational Health Department.

'Users' must also receive health and safety training in the use of their workstations.

How does the university's scheme for eye and eyesight tests work?

The university's scheme can be accessed by using this link.

What are the health risks associated with using DSE?

  • Musculoskeletal problems and work-related upper limb disorders through poor posture, poor workstation set up and using DSE for long continuous periods.
  • Visual fatigue and headaches from staring at same distances for prolonged periods, poor screen set up or poor workplace lighting.
  • Work-related stress from inappropriate work demands, unfamiliarity with, or poor functioning, software and hardware.

Are laptops covered?

Portable computers come under the scope of the regulations if they are being used for prolonged periods. However, how risks arise can be totally different to 'traditional' workstations. This can be because of smaller screen sizes, limited adjustability of keyboard and screen, inappropriate work environments and furniture.In the first instance, is there a need for the laptop to be used for prolonged periods? If this is unavoidable, the laptop must be subject to the DSE assessment process.

I use my PC at home for work-related activities. What applies in this situation?

Where members of staff are required to work from home, the workstation must be subject to the DSE assessment process, irrespective of ownership.

What actions can I take if I believe there are health and safety issues with my workstation?

Ensure self-assessment questionnaire has been completed. Discuss the issues with your local DSE Assessment Coordinator.  Further advice is also available by contacting the Senior Occupational Health Nursing Adviser.

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