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Health and Safety - Display Screen Equipment

What is display screen equipment?

Display screen equipment (DSE) is a screen that is used for displaying information such as text, numbers or graphics. However there are some exceptions. The law does not cover;

  • Screens whose main use is the display of films or videos. Screens in drivers' cabs or on vehicles
  • Portable equipment not in prolonged use
  • Calculators, cash register etc with small displays
  • Display screens intended for use mainly by the public.

Who is affected by the law controlling use of VDUs?

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 regulate the use of display screen equipment within the workplace. These regulations apply to persons who regularly use VDUs as a significant part of their normal work. Those people who only use Visual Display Units (VDUs) occasionally are not covered by the regulations. However employers have a duty to protect their health under other health and safety legislation. If you work from home and habitually use a VDU for a significant part of your normal work then these regulation will apply. The regulations do not place any duty on self-employed persons, they only apply if they are using a workstation provided by a client employer. The client's employer has a duty to assess the risks.

A user is generally a person to whom most if not all of the following apply;

  • They are dependant on the equipment to do their normal job and alternative means of doing the job are not readily available
  • They have no discretion as to whether to use or not to use the equipment
  • They need significant training in the use of the equipment
  • They use the equipment for continuous spells of one hour or more
  • They use the equipment on a more or less daily basis
  • ast transfer of data between the user and the screen is required
  • High levels of accuracy are essential and errors would be critical.

What are the health problems associated with using Display Screen Equipment?

  • Upper limb disorder (including pains in the neck, arms, elbows, wrists, hands, fingers) especially after long periods of use.
  • Temporary eyestrain ( but not eye damage) and headaches
  • Fatigue and stress

How can I avoid health problems?

Problems can often be avoided by good workplace design, so that you can work comfortably, and by good working practices. Prevention is easiest if action is taken early, before the problem has become serious.

How long can I safely work at a VDU screen?

There is no limit set out in legislation but it is important that you take regular breaks. How long you should work without a break depends on the work you are doing. Regulations require breaks or changes in activity but do not specify their timing or length. Guidance suggests that frequent short breaks are better than long infrequent breaks, for example, 5 minutes every hour or 15 minutes every 2 hours. It is best if the individual has discretion over when the breaks are taken as they are aware of how they are feeling. However most jobs frequently involve carrying out other activities other than VDU work i.e. filing or photocopying.

Can using a mouse affect me in any way?

Heavy use of a mouse may lead to aches and pains in fingers, hands, wrists, arms or shoulders as mouse work concentrates activity on one hand and arm. Risks can be reduced by adopting good posture and technique. The mouse should be positioned within easy reach so that the arm is not stretched. If you are not using the keyboard move it out the way. Your forearm should be supported on the desk and don't grip the mouse too tightly. Rest your fingers lightly on the mouse and do not press down too hard.

Take the opportunity to take breaks from intensive mouse work i.e. use the keyboard. You may wish to try swapping between you right and left hand.

Health and Safety - Display Screen Equipment - Employers Duties