In the UK hundreds of thousands of workers spend the majority, or at least part, of their working day using computers and other display screen equipment, including laptops, tablets and smartphones. Increasingly we see clients who complain about back strains and musculoskeletal complaints as a result of a poor desk set up. The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 (as amended) set out what is required of employers in relation to employees.
What is Display Screen Equipment?
The Regulations define Display Screen Equipment (DSE) as “any alphanumeric or graphic display screen, regardless of the display process involved.” In practical terms this definition covers all display screens whether they are flat screen, touchscreen, or any other emerging technology. It also covers non-electronic display systems such as microfiche. It is not limited to typical office situation and also covers non-office settings, such as factories.
A workstation includes the screen, keyboard, other parts of the computer and its accessories, as well as the desk, chair and immediate work environment.
Who is covered by the Regulations?
There are two categories of person covered by the Display Screen Regulations: users and operators. A user is an employee who habitually uses display screen equipment for the purposes of an employer’s undertaking as a significant part of their normal work, whether they are employed to work at their own employer’s place of business, at home or at another employee’s workstation.
An operator is a self-employed person who works at an employer’s workstation and would fall into the definition of users if they were in fact an employee. This is important as it means that self-employed contractors are also offered protection under the regulations.
There is no hard and fast rule about who falls into the above categories, however the Health and Safety Executive guidance considers that a person should normally be considered a user or operator if they:
Part time workers are also covered by the Regulations and should be assessed in the same manner as full time employees.
What are the Employer’s duties?
Employers are under a duty to perform a risk assessment of the workstation. There are many factors which must be taken into account including not only the equipment and desk set up, but also the provision of lighting, reduction of noise and whether there is sufficient space surrounding the workstation.
If a DSE user is employed to work at home, or away from the employer’s main base, the DSE regulations still apply, and, regardless of whether the workstation is provided in whole or part by the employer a risk assessment should be completed.
Employers must also take into account the specific needs of the individual when carrying out the assessment. The duty to risk assess applies to both users and operators of DSE.
Employers should also ensure that users (employees) receive adequate training for any workstation they use, including how to adjust their chairs, and the correct way to sit to help maintain good posture.
Users have the right to request eye tests which must be carried out by a competent person.
There is no duty to provide training or eye tests to operators.
How can you reduce your own risk of injury?
As an employee you should report and document any broken furniture or work equipment. You should also report any ill health that may be due to DSE.
Working with an inappropriate desk set up can increase your risk of injury or exacerbate pre-existing ones, and many issues can be overcome with simple fixes:
However, if an employer is unaware that you are having problems with your workstation set up they are unlikely to alter the situation. If you feel that your DSE is causing you injury and interfering with your work and would like to have a confidential chat, please get in touch with us.