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The use of display screen equipment (DSE), whether a desktop computer with multiple monitors or mobile tablet touchscreen devices, can cause a variety of health issues, like work-related upper limb disorders (WRULD), back ache, eye strain, headaches, fatigue and mental stress. 

They can happen because of poor design, inadequate workstations, the surrounding environment, tasks and software, a lack of breaks and posture.

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is a key example of an upper limb disorder associated with computers.

Some conditions occur naturally and have clear origins, while they may also be caused by home and leisure activities. Even if work isn’t the primary cause of the condition, a worker can claim it’s aggravated or accelerated by work activities. Therefore, their employer might be accused of neglecting their duty to comply with health and safety law – specifically, the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations.

  • Take a structured and systematic approach to assessing the risk. Special knowledge or assistance isn’t normally necessary, except for complex, high-risk or safety-critical tasks, or where significant equipment or other risks are identified. The assessment should:

    - identify groups and individuals at risk;

    - evaluate training of workstation assessors;

    - analyse workstations and the controls in place;

    - ensure minimum ergonomic standards are met for all workstations and equipment; and

    - include how work is organised (i.e. task rotation and breaks), the provision of health and safety information, training and, where necessary or requested, eye tests and special spectacles.
  • Make employees aware of their duties to cooperate with assessments and behave according to the instructions and training provided.

    - Refresher training is needed (typically annually) to sustain good practice and prevent or reduce adverse health effects.
  • Consider the risk of musculoskeletal disorders when buying furniture and equipment – don’t let price tags distract from safeguarding workers’ health.
  • Check the surroundings for potential problems, such as uneven flooring, noise, flickering lights and sun glare through windows.
  • Investigate whether more can be done to reduce certain issues. For example, providing instruction to workers on how to adjust the brightness and contrast on their screen, and encouraging breaks, could prevent some cases of eye strain.
  • Provide training or guidance regarding posture and behaviours, as well as how to get hold of supportive workstation accessories, like wrist rests – making back pain and upper limb disorders less likely.
  • Monitor where problems come from through sickness and return to work records and by encouraging workers to report concerns they might have
  • Get support from supervisors and managers so standards are maintained.
  • Make routine arrangements to ensure good housekeeping around workstations and develop an atmosphere in which workers won’t feel pressured to accept inappropriate standards.
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Consideration of these topics will either help with managing the issues surrounding the use of display screen equipment, or should be assessed in a similar fashion.