WA Management provides professional, adaptable and appropriate solutions for your Health and Safety needs. Our research blogs take a detailed look at particularly topical areas of the sector, or risks that are repeatedly overlooked. This week, we cast our scrutinising eye onto a an oft-overlooked aspect of Health and Safety which nearly all workers have encountered at some point. Display Screen Equipment (DSE) exists in our workplaces and in our homes, but what are some of the key risks of this hazard?
What is Display Screen Equipment (DSE)
Display Screen Equipment refers to any alphanumerical or graphical interface that we might use for extended periods in our day-to-day life. Whilst this sounds complicated, this essentially means that PCs, laptops, smartphones and tablets are within the remit of DSE. So, whether you spend the mornings flicking through work emails, or even browse social media on your phone at night, you are engaging with a form of DSE and thus are at risk of detriments it can have to physical health.
HSE regulations (specifically the Health and Safety DSE regulations of 1992) state that any employer MUST recognise and account for the hazards that DSE can pose to long-term physical health. Whilst the HSE only has jurisdiction over workstations; they recommend that the same principles and subtle risk-mitigation strategies be implemented at home.
But what are the risks of DSE?
With all this in mind, what are some of the specific risks associated with DSE? Fortunately, we have done the hard work trawling through HSE regulations to summarise it for you. The risks of DSE can be categorised into three key facets: poor posture, general physical health and eye health more specifically. Let’s take a look at these three aspects in more detail.
This refers to the debilitating injuries that may arise from a poorly set-up workstation. For example, a chair with inadequate lumbar support may lead to bad posture. The dangers of this are often overlooked because the injuries arise over a long period of time, rather than in one instance. The way equipment is set up on the desk directly influences one’s posture. Poor posture can compound pain in the wrist, back, shoulders and neck over many months or even years, with medical support often being sought too late.
General physical health:
Another overlooked aspect of DSE is how poor workstations can contribute to an unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle. By not taking regular breaks or stretching, employees can develop poor circulation and other cardiological hazards.
Eye health is also intrinsically linked to DSE. By staring at screens for extended periods of time without breaks has been linked to decreased optical health, as well as general mental wellbeing. Similarly, and relating to posture, an incorrectly set-up workstation, where an employee may be too far or too close to a screen, can over-exercise the optic muscles and nerves.
All of these risks gain greater importance as new trends and modes of work continue to grow. Indeed, even if you are working from home or hot-desking, it is paramount that you and your employer consider how your Health and Safety may be affected.
How can these risks be mitigated?
Fortunately, there are many simple and effective strategies that can be put in place to drastically reduce the health risks of DSE. These include
- Managing your time whilst undertaking DSE work. Make sure that you take breaks (5-10 minutes every hour) away from your screen to allow your body to rest.
- Conjunctively, be sure to take ‘micro-breaks’ away from your keyboard and mouse.
- Ideally, have access to an adjustable chair and know how to use it to find a safe and comfortable position
- Position any screen you use approximately 1 arm’s length away.
- Regularly check the equipment to ensure it is flicker and glare free, and not straining your eyes.
- Separate your mouse and keyboard; and keep your workstation free from clutter.
- Consider utilising additional support (such as an adjustable footrest or desk) and take time to make yourself comfortable.
- Finally, educate yourself and your employees through simple, online courses (see below).
Display Screen Equipment plays a pivotal role in our daily Health and Safety. Its ubiquity across or work and home means that it is difficult to ever really escape it. Despite this, few people are truly aware of some of the risks that it poses. True, it is not as dramatic as hazardous substances, or as immediately dangerous as Working at Height, but the hazards of DSE can often lead to injuries just as life-altering and debilitating.
As has been explored though, there are several easy and implementable solutions available. Why not start by checking out our NEW online store HERE, which has RoSPA accredited online courses on DSE and much, much more. All courses are available 24/7 upon purchase and come with a downloadable certificate upon completion.
And read the HSE regulations of DSE HERE