As an employer, you must protect your workers from the health risks of working with display screen equipment (DSE), such as PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones.
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations apply to workers who use DSE daily, for continuous periods of an hour or more, these workers are known as ‘DSE users’. The regulations don’t apply to workers who use DSE infrequently or only use it for a short time.
How to protect workers’ health
In law, employers must:
- do a DSE workstation assessment
- reduce risks, including making sure workers take breaks from DSE work or do something different
- provide an eye test if a worker asks for one
- provide training and information for workers
Incorrect use of DSE or poorly designed workstations or work environments can lead to pain in necks, shoulders, backs, arms, wrists and hands as well as fatigue and eye strain. The causes may not always be obvious.
The law applies if users are, for example:
- at a fixed workstation
- mobile workers
- home workers
- hot-desking (workers should carry out a basic risk assessment if they change desks regularly)
The HSE’s leaflet Working with display screen equipment gives more information about how to comply with the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations.
Workstations and assessment
If workers use display screen equipment (DSE): daily, as part of their normal work, and continuously for an hour or more, employers must do a workstation assessment.
Employers should look at:
- the whole workstation, including equipment, furniture, and work conditions
- the job being done
- any special requirements of a member of staff, for example a user with a disability
Where there are risks, they should take steps to reduce them.
Employers must also do an assessment when:
- a new workstation is set up
- a new user starts work
- a change is made to an existing workstation or the way it’s used
- users complain of pain or discomfort
Working with display screen equipment at home
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations can apply to workers who:
- work at home on a permanent or long-term basis
- routinely split their time between their workplace and home (sometimes called hybrid working)
DSE risk assessment
Where the regulations do apply, you should carry out a DSE assessment for individual workers. In most cases you do not need to visit them to carry out the assessment, unless you decide there is a need to do so. Your workers may complete a self-assessment provided they have been given suitable training, for example by explaining how to use an ergonomic checklist or self-assessment tool.
Where workers use DSE in the home and office, the assessment should cover both situations. Make sure those working at home can achieve a comfortable, sustainable posture. They may not need office furniture or equipment at home to achieve this. But you should check if their own equipment is suitable.
Managing the risks
Make sure that you can implement the findings of your assessments for your workers using DSE at home. Reduce the risks identified by your assessment so far as reasonably practicable. This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble.
Where your DSE workstation assessment indicates you need to take some action, for example providing a piece of DSE equipment, your workers cannot be charged for this.
Keep your DSE arrangements under review, particularly if there have been significant changes. Check if your existing control measures are sufficient or whether additional steps are needed, for example where your workers report aches, pains or discomfort.
Alongside information provided by the worker, you may need to ask for competent advice. For example, from:
- a suitably trained DSE assessor
- suitable occupational health professional
You should meet additional individual needs so far as reasonably practicable.
There is a practical DSE workstation checklist that can be downloaded from www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/ck1.htm. This will help you to make a simple DSE assessment and record and communicate the findings.
Work routine and breaks
The law says employers must plan work so there are breaks or changes of activity for employees who are display screen equipment (DSE) users.
There is no legal guidance about how long and how often breaks should be for DSE work. It depends on the kind of work you are doing. Take short breaks often, rather than longer ones less often. For example 5 to 10 minutes every hour is better than 20 minutes every 2 hours. Ideally, users should be able to choose when to take breaks.
In most jobs it is possible to stop DSE work to do other tasks, such as going to meetings or making phone calls. If there are no natural changes of activity in a job, employers should plan rest breaks. Breaks or changes of activity should allow users to get up from their workstations and move around, or at least stretch and change posture.
Eyes and eyesight testing
The law says employers must arrange an eye test for display screen equipment (DSE) users if they ask for one, and provide glasses if an employee needs them only for DSE use.
DSE work does not cause permanent damage to eyes. But long spells of DSE work can lead to:
- tired eyes
- temporary short-sightedness
DSE work is visually demanding, so it can make someone aware of eyesight problems they have not noticed before (including changes in eyesight that happen with age).
Employees can help their eyes by:
- checking the screen is well positioned and properly adjusted
- making sure lighting conditions are suitable
- taking regular breaks from screen work
Eye tests for DSE users
An employer must provide an eyesight test for a DSE user if they request one. The employer must also pay for the test. This should be a full eye and eyesight test by an optometrist or doctor, including a vision test and an eye examination.
It’s up to the employer how they provide the test. For example, they could let users arrange the tests and reimburse them for the cost later, or they could send all their DSE users to one optician.
Glasses for DSE work
Employers only have to pay for glasses for DSE work if the test shows an employee needs special glasses prescribed for the distance the screen is viewed at. If an ordinary prescription is suitable, employers do not have to pay for glasses.
Training and information
Employers must provide health and safety training and information for display screen equipment (DSE) users. Training should be about the risks in DSE work and how to avoid these by safe working practices. It should include:
- good posture
- adjusting chairs and other furniture
- arranging desk space
- adjusting screens and lighting to avoid reflections and glare
- breaks and changes of activity
- risk assessments
- how to report problems
- employers should also tell users about the general arrangements they have made for health and safety in their DSE work, and how they can apply for an eye test.