Working Safely with Display Screen Equipment

Posted by

Lynne Callister

on 10 Aug 2021

Often musculoskeletal injuries are assumed to always result from manual labour. In fact, 36% of conditions result from awkward positions or keyboards!

Working Safely with Display Screen Equipment

Do you know the risks associated with DSE?

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), computer workstations or equipment can be associated with neck, shoulder, back or arm pain, fatigue, and eyestrain. Past surveys have also shown many display screen equipment (DSE) users showing signs of upper-limb disorders (ULDs).

DSE can also be referred to as Visual Display Units (VDU) and includes laptops, touch screens such as tablets, and any other similar device that incorporates a display screen.

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Key work-related musculoskeletal statistics

  • 8.9 million working days were lost due to WRMSDs, a 29% rise vs 2018/19
  • 480,000 workers were affected by WRMSDs in 2019/20
  • Most were affected by upper limb or neck issues (44%), followed closely by back problems (37%) or disorders of the hand, arm or wrist
  • 65% of employees report work-related pain, with an average of 2.6% of the workforce requiring time off work due to musculoskeletal issues each year

Working days lost in 2019/20

  • Back injuries account for 22% of days lost (11.2 days per case).
  • Upper limb/neck injuries account for 50% of days lost (20.8 days per case)
  • Conditions affecting the lower limbs account for 28% (26.7 days per case).

Source: HSE WRMSD Statistics

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Health & safety tips when using DSE for work

UK employers are legally obligated to protect their employees from the health risks of working with display screen equipment, such as PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. This applies regardless of where you are working. The main requirements are a risk assessment of your workstation, health and safety training and eye tests.

But there are also some simple steps you can take yourself to help you stay safe and well when using DSE for work, especially if you are working away from the office.

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1. Start by making adjustments to improve your posture

Pay particular attention to the position and angle of your monitor, mouse and keyboard. Then check the height and position of your chair and feet, plus where you place your documents.

Don't work with a tablet or laptop on your knee or sit on the sofa if you are home working. Use blinds (to prevent screen glare) and adjust the brightness/contrast settings (to avoid eye strain). An adjustable chair is a must.

2. Ensure a mix of IT & non-IT tasks

Avoid prolonged periods of keyboard or seated activity, remembering to stretch and regularly change positions. It is especially true when remote working because work can often be more intense without the usual office distractions (e.g. people stopping by your desk, etc.).

3. Use all personal protective equipment provided

Including wrist pads, document holders, footrests, anti-screen glare shields, etc. Talk to your manager if you identify anything else that may benefit you.

4. Walk around & move away from your desk

Take regular exercise during the day to improve your circulation by, for example, walking up or downstairs. Carry out finger and arm exercises regularly between tasks as you sit at your desk.

5. Take short, frequent breaks away from your screen

They boost productivity and are much more effective than working intensively for hours and taking one long break.

6. Protect yourself when using portable devices

Avoid prolonged use of smartphones and tablets. Position your tablet at eye level to prevent neck strain, and use a stylus and shortcuts to prevent nerve damage in your fingers.

7. Arrange regular eye tests

If you habitually use display screen equipment, have regular tests to check your eyesight.

8. If you have concerns approach your manager

Even if you are remote-working, your company may be able to help. Perhaps by rearranging your workload, specialist equipment or other adjustments.

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