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 display screens daily, for an hour or more at a time.
In this DSE Assessment Guide, we’ll walk you through the steps you need to take…
For the purposes of the guide, we will describe these workers as ‘DSE users’. Let’s look at some ways that employers can reduce risk for their DSE users.
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)
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
Use this DSE workstation checklist to help make an assessment. You should always make sure a trained assessor looks at user assessment results (whether these are software or paper based).
The assessor should clear up any doubtful points, provide feedback to users and make sure problems are put right, for example by changes to the DSE or workstation.
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.
Break-monitoring software can remind users to take regular breaks. But employers are still responsible for making sure work activities are properly planned and that users take suitable breaks.
Eyesight and Eye Testing
The law (UK) 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.
DSE 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.
Also consider explaining how to use the DSE workstation checklist if users are going to make their own assessment.
DSE Assessment Working from Home
Employers have the same health and safety responsibilities for employees working from home as for any other employees, including the duty not to charge for things done or provided pursuant to their specific requirements.
If you have staff working at home, you must still manage the risks to their health from display screen equipment (DSE).
- Temporary home working
- Long-term home working
Temporary Working from Home
There is no increased risk from DSE work for those working at home temporarily.
So in that situation employers do not need to ask them to carry out home workstation assessments.
During any period of temporary home working, employers need to regularly discuss these arrangements with their employees.
Check out the useful HSE video for temporary working at home, below.
If such work is adversely affecting the health, safety and welfare of their employees, they should take appropriate steps.
However, employers should provide workers with advice on completing their own basic assessment at home.
There are some simple steps people can take to reduce the risks from display screen work:
- breaking up long spells of DSE work with rest breaks (at least 5 minutes every hour) or changes in activity
- avoiding awkward, static postures by regularly changing position
- getting up and moving or doing stretching exercises
- avoiding eye fatigue by changing focus or blinking from time to time
The Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors has published infographics to help people working at home.
Specialised DSE equipment needs
Employers should try to meet those needs where possible.
For some equipment (e.g. keyboards, mouse, riser) this could mean allowing workers to take this equipment home.
For other larger items (e.g. ergonomic chairs, height-adjustable desks) encourage workers to try other ways of creating a comfortable working environment (e.g. supporting cushions).
Keep DSE arrangements under review
As any period of temporary home working extends, employers should have regular discussions with workers to assess whether additional steps are needed, for example where they report:
- aches, pains or discomfort related to their temporary DSE arrangements
- adverse effects of working in isolation, on remote IT systems or unable to access support systems provided in the workplace
- working longer hours without adequate rest and recovery breaks
DSE Working from Home | Long-term
Where employers decide to make working from home arrangements permanent, they should explain how to carry out full workstation assessments and provide workers with appropriate equipment and advice on control measures.