Office work comes risk-free, right?...Wrong! Whether you are in an office or remote-working you need to know how to stay safe when using display screen equipment (DSE).
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, as well as with fatigue and eyestrain. Past surveys have also shown a significant number of 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.
Key facts about work-related illnesses
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs) account for 37% all new and long-standing cases of work-related ill-health, with repetitive keyboard use being one of the significant contributory factors.
- 6.9 million working days were lost due to WRMSDs in 2018/19, with an average of 14 days off per worker
- 498,000 workers suffered from WRMSDs in 2018/9
- Most of those affected experience back problems or disorders of the hand, armor wrist
- 2.6 million days were lost due to work-related upper limb disorders (such as repetitive strain injuries, hand-wrist tendon syndromes and carpal tunnel syndrome), with 1.5 million stemming from lower limb disorders, in 2018/19
Health & safety tips when using DSE for work
UK employers have a legal duty 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 work station, health and safety training and eye tests.
But there are also some simple steps you can take yourself to help ensure that you stay safe and well when using DSE for work, especially if you are working away from the office.
- Before starting work make adjustments to improve your posture - pay particular attention to the position and angle of your monitor, mouse and keyboard; the height and position of your chair and feet; and where you place 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.
- Arrange your work routine to ensure a mix of IT and 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 as work can often be more intense without the usual office distractions (e.g. people stopping by your desk, etc.).
- Use all personal protective equipment that is provided - including wrist pads, document holders, footrests, anti-screen glare shields, etc. Talk to your manager if you identify anything else which may be of benefit.
- Walk around and move away from your desk - take regular exercise during the day to improve your circulation by, for example, walking up or downstairs. Carry out regular finger and arm exercises between tasks as you sit at your desk.
- 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.
- Protect yourself when using portable devices - such as smartphones and tablets. Avoid prolonged use, position your tablet at eye level to prevent neck strain and use a stylus and shortcuts to prevent nerve damage in your fingers.
- Arrange regular eye tests - anyone habitually using display screen equipment should have regular tests to check their eyesight.
- Talk to your manager if you're concerned about safety when using DSE - even if you are remote-working as they may help you rearrange your work, make other adjustments, offer other equipment, and so on.
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