Employers responsibilities to employees who spend their time working in front of computer screens

  • Health & Safety
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Wherever people work there will be electronic display screens and the potential application of the Display Screens Equipment (DSE) Regulations 1992.  The regulations cover any equipment with an alphanumeric or graphic display screen, regardless of the display process involved. It is obvious that this covers computer screens, the screens used in supermarket tills and petrol stations, personal issue laptops and notepads and the like. The regulations also cover less obvious uses of display screens such as the displays on tills in small shops, clubs and pubs, the screens on telephone switchboards and even the display on a work issued mobile phone. However duties under the regulations to assess workstations and take measures to reduce the risk of injury or ill-health to the user only arise when the person using the display screen is a ‘habitual’ user.  A habitual user will use DSE for continuous or near-continuous spells of an hour or more at a time, on a more or less daily basis, and have to transfer information quickly to or from the DSE. The personal DSE Risk Assessment is important in ascertaining how well-suited display screen equipment and the associated workstation or working area is to the worker’s daily activities and an important step in preventing eye strain and upper limb disorders. BusinessSafe clients will have received guidance and advice on meeting these requirements from their health and safety consultant. In most cases the few problems that are identified are soon resolved. However, from time to time, an employee will suddenly demand a larger screen or a specially designed chair claiming that they are suffering eye strain or upper limb disorders (back strain, sore wrist, etc.) because of the DSE equipment they are required to operate.  What do you do?  If you buy expensive new screens and chairs for one worker everybody will want one. It could be costly! Fortunately our experience is that the majority of these claims can be resolved without needing to purchase any new equipment. The first step to take is to ask your trained DSE assessor to review the worker’s DSE risk assessment. The review will need to consider whether the workstation is as originally set up; has it been moved - however slightly; is it properly adjusted; is the operator’s chair properly adjusted; is the operator following the instructions and training given to them and using the correct posture; have they developed a sloppy posture; has their eye sight deteriorated; etc? Usually this reassessment reveals that one or more changes to the workstation set up or to the user’s eye-sight is the root cause of the problem. Once the workstation is reset or the user has new glasses the problems are resolved. (The law requires employers to pay for eye tests, where necessary, and for any basic corrective appliances that are required for work with display screens.) Whenever a worker complains of ill-health as a result of working at DSE it is important to reassess their use of the equipment and resolve any emerging health issues before they develop     into anything more serious. In a few exceptional cases review of the work activity and risk assessment may not identify a work-related cause of ill-health. In these rare cases it may be necessary to seek the assistance of an occupation health physician in identifying an appropriate course of action. Contact our Advice Service if you require further clarification on the issue, call 0844 892 2772. 

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