Policy

Display Screen Equipment Policy

Updated on 21 October 2021

This policy sets out procedures to minimise the health risks of using DSE and to ensure compliance with the Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992 as amended by the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002.

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University of Dundee recognises the risks of using Display Screen Equipment (DSE) and that misuse can lead to chronic injury. This Policy sets out procedures to minimise the health risks of using DSE and to ensure compliance with the Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992 as amended by the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002. The University will ensure that all equipment provided for DSE workstations complies with legislative requirements.

Definitions

A “User” is defined as someone who has to use DSE for a significant part of the working day, has to use DSE in circumstances where they are under pressure and mistakes are critical, and has limited discretion to organise their own workloads.

A “DSE Workstation” includes the IT equipment, the desk, chair and other furniture and equipment essential and ancillary to the work at the DSE and the immediate working environment.

Arrangements

Deans/Directors must ensure that all DSE workstations under their control are assessed and that staff who are “Users” as defined in the Regulations are identified. This task may be delegated to the School/Directorate Safety Adviser or other trained DSE assessors. Records of DSE risk assessments must be retained for at least 5 years and the assessment repeated if there has been any significant change to the workstation or the work that is carried out or the individual’s health status changes in a way that may result in adverse health effects from work with DSE.

All staff using a DSE workstation must read the Safe Working with Display Screen Equipment Handbook and complete their self assessment workstation risk assessment before, or as soon as practicable after, starting work with DSE. They should discuss the workstation risk assessment with their line manager and report any concerns about their workstation to their School/Support Service Safety Adviser or DSE assessor. If they think they may be a “User” or are having difficulty in completing a workstation risk assessment, they should contact their School/Support Service Safety Adviser or DSE assessor to carry out a DSE workstation risk assessment.

DSE “Users” are entitled to a free eye and eyesight test through their employer. This is provided by Specsavers Opticians. A DSE assessor completes a form to confirm that the employee is a “User” and sends this to Safety Services who issue a voucher that can be used to obtain an eye test and prescription glasses from Specsavers opticians. The employee visits the optician and provides the voucher.

The University will provide single vision corrective glasses in a limited range of frames for DSE “Users” where the prescription is needed solely due to the use of DSE, or a contribution equal to the cost of such single vision glasses towards suitable glasses of the employee’s choice. The University will not pay any contribution towards glasses in retrospect or where these procedures have not been followed.

DSE Assessor and Risk Assessment training is provided by Safety Services.

Guidance note on safe working with Display Screen Equipment

Most staff and students work with display screen equipment (DSE) such as desktop and laptop personal computers, often for prolonged periods on a daily basis. Considerable improvements have been made in DSE since their use became widespread, including the visual display unit (VDU or monitor) of the DSE.

The commonest potential health problems when working with DSE include:

  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Musculoskeletal discomfort
  • Stress

Possible effects on health

Effects on eyes

There is no evidence that permanent damage to eyes can be caused by working with VDUs.

The most common adverse effect of working with VDUs is temporary and can loosely be called 'eyestrain' or 'visual discomfort'. The signs of this include painful eyes with a burning or gritty sensation, blurring of the visual image and twitching of eye muscles. Eyestrain is one of a wider group of temporary eye problems that are defined as ‘any subjective visual symptoms or distress resulting from the use of one's eyes’. Eyestrain is particularly likely to occur after a long, unbroken period of work on the equipment.

Some people may require corrective spectacles specifically for display screen work. They are needed to correct problems experienced with reading display screens that are usually located at a distance of about 0.5m from the user.

Headaches

Work-related headaches among DSE users are most commonly related to problems of visual discomfort.

People who are susceptible to migraines can also find that screen usage (in particular prolonged used) can bring on a migraine, but the exact reasons for this are not always clear and may not be entirely due to the screen. The Migraine Trust has information about this and steps to reduce occurrence.

Musculoskeletal discomfort

This can take the form of pain, stiffness or numbness, particularly in the neck, arm, shoulders or wrists. The cause is linked to sitting in fixed positions for long periods, or awkward, rapid or repetitive movements of the hand, body or arms. In most cases these symptoms disappear quickly after stopping work, but in a few cases they may be more serious and permanent disability could result. This form of problem comes under the heading of Work-Related Upper Limb Disorder (WRULD) or Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). WRULDs are not confined to DSE users. They are found in employees performing traditional office tasks as well as in factory workers. The location of the musculoskeletal discomfort is related to the particular type(s) of task being performed.

These ailments are the most common injuries resulting from DSE use and the University recognises that they are caused by a combination of equipment, user habits and other factors. It is the University’s policy to train all users about the potential hazards and to encourage them to develop good working practices to minimise the risks.

Fatigue and stress

These may be secondary to visual or musculoskeletal problems but may also be caused by such factors as poor job design or work organisation, high-speed repetitive working and lack of control of work by the user. Related to this is unsatisfactory software design, which may be linked with inappropriate monitoring of performance. To reduce these factors, training, consultation and involvement of the user, in addition to design of the workstation have to be considered.

Skin rashes

There have been a small number of cases where skin rashes, particularly on the face, appear to be connected with the use of VDUs. These rashes usually disappeared overnight or over a weekend when the equipment was not being used. The cause was probably an electrostatic field associated with older CRT-style displays, sometimes coupled with a dry atmosphere; simple measures such as using a moisturising cream can usually prevent the rashes, but modern LCD displays also have much reduced electrostatic fields.

Photosensitive epilepsy

Epileptic seizures have been caused by TV viewing, but this photosensitive epilepsy is confined to a small proportion of the population (1 to 2,500 to 1 in 10,000). Persons known to be at risk are advised to consult their doctor before using VDU equipment for the first time. However, a screen which is flickering or otherwise malfunctioning could trigger an attack in susceptible people. Therefore, any faults should be reported promptly and faulty equipment not continued in use.

Modern LCD displays have much faster refresh rates than CRT displays, thereby reducing the risk of photosensitive epilepsy being triggered.

Radiation effects

The Health Protection Agency considers that there is no significant risk to health associated with any radiation emissions from VDUs, especially from modern LCD displays. Therefore, no special protective measures are needed to protect the health of people from such radiation.

Effects on pregnant women

There has been considerable concern about higher levels of miscarriage and birth defects reported among some groups of VDU users. However, reliable studies have been unable to demonstrate any link between miscarriages or birth defects and VDUs. The Health Protection Agency considers that VDU radiation emissions, especially from modern LCD displays, do not put unborn children at risk. Pregnant women need not stop work with VDUs. However, to avoid problems caused by anxiety, women who are pregnant or planning children, and are worried about working with VDUs, should contact the Occupational Health Team.

Responsibilities of the University

Employees who use DSE for a significant part of their normal work, and others working under University control and using DSE, must be protected from potential associated health hazards. The University will ensure that it provides suitable equipment for DSE workstations and that staff will carry out DSE Assessments on their workstations. Where employees are classified as “Users” under the Regulations, the provision of eye and eyesight tests and corrective spectacles when needed solely due to use of DSE are additional measures that the University will apply. The University also recognises its duty to students and casual users to provide suitable equipment and training in its safe use.

Assessment of risks

All workstations (including the immediate environment) involving DSE have to be assessed so that any risks identified can be reduced to the lowest extent reasonably practicable. In most cases this can be completed by the staff themselves using the DSE Risk Assessment form given in Appendix 1 of the PDF or by using the online DSE self-assessment (Log in, then select “uod_safety_database” and click the button for DSE Self-Assessment). They may contact a Display Screen Risk Assessor for advice, or they may be contacted by a Display Screen Risk Assessor if they are a “User” and/or significant issues are identified following the self-assessment.

Minimum requirements for workstations

The requirements are incorporated into the DSE Assessment form and described in Appendix 2 of the PDF.

Work breaks, consultation, information, training

Everyone who works with DSE at the University needs to receive appropriate training on the nature of the risks and how to avoid them by correct working practices.

Suitable breaks, or changes of activity, to interrupt display screen work should be provided in addition to information and training relating to the hazards of display screen work. A diagram showing the optimal seating and posture for display screen and similar office work is given in this booklet (Appendix 3 in the PDF).

Prevention of adverse health effects

The working conditions that can be adjusted to prevent eyestrain, headaches, muscular discomfort and related stress and fatigue are as follows.

Breaks/changes in activity

The avoidance of long periods of unbroken work with DSE will reduce the risk of eyestrain, headaches and muscular discomfort. Momentary breaks to relax the hands, body and eye muscles roughly every ten minutes are particularly beneficial where keyboard work is intensive.

Some work breaks are necessary to avoid effects on health and these can often be incorporated into jobs by just carrying out other tasks to break up a long spell at the DSE. In jobs where most of the work is at a screen and keyboard, both the employee and their manager need to ensure that changes of activity or rest breaks occur for at least 5-10 minutes every hour.

If users of VDUs suffer from eyestrain or headaches and if the environmental factors discussed below appear to be satisfactory, then consideration should be given to the need for changing the frequency and length of breaks away from the VDU, or look more closely at the whole job.

Correct positioning of the VDU in relation to lights and windows

The correct positioning of VDUs in relation to lights and windows helps to avoid glare (an unpleasant brightness in the visual field) and reflections on the screen. Both of these can lead to eyestrain and headaches.

The VDU equipment should be placed with the screen at right angles to overhead strip lights, that is with the sides of the VDU parallel to the light strips. If rows of strips are present, the VDU screen should be midway between two rows. The screen can often be tilted or angled slightly to avoid reflections, but this should not be at the expense of the user achieving a good working posture.

In most DSE workstations the brightest sources of light are the windows, but attention to the following should eliminate them as a source of glare and reflections on the VDU screens:

  • VDU screens should not be placed with a window immediately in front or behind them
  • The screens should be situated at right angles to windows
  • Screens should not be placed too near windows
  • In some cases it may be necessary to provide blinds or curtains to shield windows under some light conditions. It is best if these are in a neutral colour

Before DSE equipment is installed in a room careful consideration should be given to siting it most effectively in relation to lights and windows. If reflectance and glare occur on screens, they can usually be eliminated by making adjustments in line with the above recommendations. A mirror with the back held flat against the screen can be a useful aid if difficulty is found in locating a source of glare/reflection.

Lighting level and quality

Naked fluorescent lights produce glare and should not be used in rooms with VDUs. Diffusers should be fitted to all tubes. Modern LED lights should also be a type that does not produce glare and is of an appropriate colour temperature.

The light level that is suitable for office work with paper documents is higher than that most suitable for reading a VDU screen. The ideal light level for paperwork is above 500 lux, but the level suited to most VDU operations is 300 lux. This conflict can usually be dealt with by providing a level of 300 lux to not more than 500 lux at the VDU screen by combining natural and artificial lighting with any necessary blinds or screens. Paperwork can be illuminated at levels greater than 500 lux by task lights, taking care to position or screen them to prevent glare; dimmers on these lights are often an advantage.

Lighting levels are often a matter of personal preference. Anybody who thinks that lighting is causing difficulty in their work with VDUs should consult Safety Services who can measure lighting levels where necessary.

Other factors connected to preventing glare

Correct attention to lighting level and position will do much to prevent glare on the screen. It can also be important to eliminate reflecting surfaces from the vicinity of the VDU screen. Good quality keyboards have matt surfaces. The surface of the desk on which the VDU stands should also be matt rather than glossy and should not be too light in colour.

Various types of devices are available for fitting over VDU screens to decrease glare, although modern LCD screens with matt surfaces exhibit much less glare than older CRT screens and so filters are usually not required on LCD screens. Filters should be seen as a less satisfactory way of treating the problem because each type has its own disadvantage in reducing the quality of the screen images. The personal preference of an operator, however, could make the installation of such a device an acceptable solution if a LCD screen is not available instead.

Avoidance of muscular discomfort by proper design of the workplace

The components of any DSE workstation should be easily adjustable. This applies particularly to the positions of the screen, keyboard, chair and optional components such as document holder or footrest.

Ease of adjustment is as important as adjustability and will allow different people to use the equipment comfortably. It is also important that individual users can adjust their posture easily and frequently to avoid muscle pains. Document holders are an essential aid where copy typing or transfer of data from documents to the screen is a frequent task. The distance between the eye and the screen, the keyboard and the document holder should be equal if possible. It is recommended that document holders are positioned as near to the screen as possible and that they stand at approximately the same angle.

The diagram in Appendix 5 of the PDF gives an indication of optimal seating and posture for display screen work. A large literature exists on the ergonomics of designing DSE workstations and the references in the bibliography can give a guide to further information in this area.

Even the idealised seating and posture shown in Appendix 5 will lead to discomfort if it must be maintained for long periods. It is therefore important to provide a workstation whose different components can be easily adjusted to allow the working posture to be altered as frequently as necessary. It should be possible to make all the common adjustments from the working position.

Layout of DSE workstations

Before a VDU and its associated equipment such as printers are installed it should be recognised that it will require to be carefully positioned in relation to lights, windows and any other VDU equipment. More electrical cables will be involved as compared with other office equipment and thought will have to be given to the best method of avoiding trailing cables on the floor and close to working surfaces, especially in a home working environment where available sockets may not be ideally located or plentiful.

When multiple VDUs (i.e. monitors) are being used, they should be at a similar height. Try to avoid twisting to look from one screen to the other: rotate your chair if necessary and move your keyboard and mouse. When inputting data, sit square on to the monitor which is displaying this information.

Laptops

Laptops do not comply with the requirements for DSE workstations when used without peripherals because the screen and the keyboard are not separable and they, therefore, encourage a poor posture, which can lead to discomfort and musculoskeletal problems. Therefore, laptops should not be used in situations where a normal desktop PC could be used unless suitable peripherals are used. At a minimum, a separate keyboard and mouse, combined with a way to raise the laptop screen to an appropriate working height is required. Due to the small size of laptop screens, ideally, a separate monitor should also be used. Should an employee work from home as part of agreed arrangements, appropriate equipment must be supplied to enable a suitable working environment to be achieved. This will include peripherals attached to a PC or laptop and other equipment such as a desk, chair, foot-rest as determined by DSE risk assessment.

Laptops without peripherals should only be used for occasional work, even if the breaks and changes of activity advised earlier are being taken. When a laptop is used without peripherals (e.g. occasional home working, on a train, in an airport, etc), the user should find a table or desk of suitable height and a supportive chair wherever possible. Laptop users must be aware of the potential risks of extended laptop use in a situation that does not facilitate them adopting good posture and working habits.

‘Users’ of Display Screen Equipment

The DSE Regulations were designed in the early 1990s to give protection to employees who use DSE for prolonged periods and who are not free to choose how or when they carry out this work. A requirement of these Regulations is that ‘Users’ of DSE are entitled to a free eye test and, if it is found that ‘Users’ require spectacles specifically for working at DSE, they must be provided by the employer. This is an unusual requirement if one considers the visual needs of other types of work. Tailors, electronics assemblers, surgeons, dentists, and other precision workers do not receive this legal entitlement, yet their vision is critical to their work. Under the DSE Regulations, spectacles are not provided for someone who has an eye test and is found to have adequate focus but has other vision problems such as astigmatism. In this case, the prescription of spectacles would be for other purposes as well as DSE work. Nor are spectacles provided for reading. Most people who need spectacles for other tasks such as reading will find that they are adequate for DSE work as well.

In the Regulations there are no clear definitions of exactly what a “User” is, only guidelines. Since the early 1990s, the use of DSE has become commonplace and most staff will use DSE both at work and at home. However, the use of DSE does not in itself make someone a ‘User’ as defined by the Regulations. Staff who use DSE are not therefore automatically entitled to a free eye test or glasses if required. Given that there is no clear definition of a ‘User’ in the DSE Regulations, the University has drawn up guidelines following HSE Guidance L26 to differentiate between staff who are ‘Users’ and staff who use DSE in their work. These guidelines are given in the ‘User Definition Form’(Appendix 4 of the PDF) and if 4 or more of the criteria are fulfilled in these guidelines, that member of staff can be assumed to be a ‘User’ and not someone who simply uses DSE. There may inevitably be occasional disputes where someone feels they are being denied a free eye test that they have either previously had or they had expected. In these few cases please refer them to Safety Services.

Eye test arrangements for staff who are ‘Users’ are given in Appendix 5 of the PDF.

Bibliography/further sources of information

Health and Safety Executive Publications

Work with Display Screen Equipment. Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations, 1992 as amended by the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002. Guidance on Regulations L26 published 2003, ISBN 0 11 886331 2.

Working with display screen equipment (DSE): A brief guide, INDG36(rev4), 2013

Ergonomics and human factors at work: a brief guide, INDG90(rev3), 03/13.

Seating at Work, HSG57, 1997. HMSO, ISBN 9780717612314.

Lighting at Work, HSG38, 1997. HMSO, ISBN 9780717612321.

Work-related Upper Limb Disorders, A Guide to Prevention, HSG60, 2002. HMSO, ISBN 9780717619788.

HMSO

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992, as amended by the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002.

Document information

Document name Safety Policy Arrangement 14-2002 (rev. 2021) Display Screen Equipment (DSE)
Policy number 14-2002

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Enquiries

Safety Services

+44 (0)1382 384104

safety@dundee.ac.uk
Corporate information category Health and safety