How to Safely Use Display Screen Equipment (DSE) in the Workplace?

Display Screen Equipment By Matthew Coombes

What is Display Screen Equipment (DSE)?

The way that The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 are worded states that display screen equipment includes “any alphanumeric or graphic display screen, regardless of the display process involved”, so if you use any screens regularly at work, this would be very likely to be considered Display Screen Equipment.

As technology develops so does DSE, we now have smartphones and tablets for sending emails and video calling, smart tech for health monitoring, virtual reality goggles for piloting drones, so who knows what the next screen-based technology for working will be?

It is this increased presence of screens in our working lives that makes it essential that we properly manage and train professionals in health and safety on how we use display screen equipment, and reduce the impact that using DSE will have on our health.

What are the risks of using DSE?

Any equipment used incorrectly can potentially have negative impacts on our health, and the same goes for DSE. In this article, I will be talking about some of the most common forms of injury and ill health that can be caused by the use of DSE, or made worse by it.

Musculoskeletal issues: –
Musculoskeletal means your muscles and your skeleton, and the two are often interrelated. Think about your posture right now, are your shoulders back? Is your spine straight? Are your feet planted on the ground at a 90° angle?

It’s more likely that your shoulders are slightly forward and you may have sunken into your chair a bit. This may feel more comfortable for the time being, but it quickly becomes the body’s new normal, and the longer that you spend in this position the more that your bones, joints and muscles get used to it.

This can mean that your shoulders start to round in further and the cycle continues until holding your shoulders in the correct posture is painful. This can then put added strain on the muscles and joints around your shoulders, other muscles that shouldn’t be engaged will then be used, for example, your neck muscles may start to take some additional workload, and you can develop muscle strain in your neck and other areas around your shoulders.

If you find that you often have to lean in towards the text to concentrate or to read text, it may be that you need reading glasses and don’t realise, you may need glasses specifically for using display screen equipment, or the text could be too small. In the UK, all employees that regularly use DSE are entitled to free eye testing paid for by the employer, and you may be able to get glasses for DSE use for free also.

Other musculoskeletal injuries may include:

  • Tendonitis
  • Arthritis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Muscle weakness
  • Aches & pains
  • Muscle cramps
  • Reduced movement in the joints

Control measures for using display screen equipment

Implementing some simple changes to the workplace can help to manage risks in the workplace and address the issues with using display screen equipment.

Chairs and desks that suit the user

Everyone’s body is different in size, shape and length, so what works for one individual may not work for another. For example, a tall worker may struggle to sit with their back straight and their feet at a good angle if their desk is too low for them. Inversely, a short worker may be able to keep a good posture, but they may have to lean forward to reach any paperwork and make the best use of their desk.

Laptops and portable equipment

Laptops and other screen-based portable equipment are highly customisable including stands that can help you to set them up at the right height and angle, wireless keyboards and mice which can eliminate issues with reaching over things or typing on a small laptop keyboard for prolonged times, and extra screens can be added in seconds.
If you or people that you work with have a laptop for work, it’s a good idea to have a workstation set up that can be plugged into for longer use, such as having a workstation at home and at the office/site that the laptop can be quickly hooked up to.

Considerations for at-risk workers

Some existing health conditions can be made worse by incorrect use of display screen equipment and particular consideration should be taken to ensure that anyone with a health condition that could be made worse has adequate controls for the risk.

Musculoskeletal conditions

Those with existing musculoskeletal conditions can find that these conditions are made much worse by prolonged use of display screen equipment.

Sitting down to work on display screen equipment can put a lot of your body’s weight onto the lower portion of your spine, and if you have an existing condition like a prolapsed spinal disc, this can become very painful after even a short period of sitting down.

If you suffer from arthritis, typing can be very painful. This is often because typing for work requires thousands of tiny movements as you press each key (or keystrokes). Each keystroke will involve the movement of the bones in your fingers, hands and wrist which can increase the inflammation in these areas and become very painful for those with arthritis.

Eye conditions

There is a wide range of eye conditions that can be made worse by the use of DSE, and suffering from an eye condition while trying to use display screen equipment can be stressful.

Reading for too long can be difficult for anyone, and you can get headaches, eye strain, dryness of the eyes, and even migraines.

This is often much worse for those that have conditions related to eye health such as:
Macular degeneration – Issues with the central portion of vision, which can mean that you have to look at text from ‘side on’.
Retinitis pigmentosa – Vision degenerates from the outside in and can become difficult to see things outside of the central portion of sight.
Double vision caused by other conditions – Text can be offset and blurry when read.

To manage eye conditions, you will need to work with individuals to see what is best for their specific health condition and their experience of their health condition.

Although not a legal requirement, technological advancements have meant that your local opticians are often able to provide extensive screening for a variety of eye conditions, at a reasonable price. They are even able to perform 3D scans of your retina that can detect any potential issues up to five years earlier than you would normally be able to tell. If you have the budget available to do so, offering a one-off free eye health screening could be a good way to detect any unknown or developing eye conditions.

General tips for DSE

Break up tasks with screen-free activities – The HSE recommend that you should take a break from display screen equipment for 15 minutes every hour. However, this may not always be practical if you are in a role that does not have many tasks that can be completed off-screen.

Magnification tools – There are inbuilt magnification tools readily available as part of your computer that can be a useful tool for anyone that struggles to read with a screen.

Night mode to reduce blue glare – Windows 10 and other operating systems have an option that allows the user to set times for the “night mode” to activate, night mode on a windows computer will change the screen display to display a less blue light. This option has a slider so you can set the screen to any colour that you want. Personally, my screen is often a soft orangish colour.. I have found that this significantly reduced my experience of headaches and eye strain.

Window placement and screen glare – Having a strong light going into your eyes from behind your screen or having a strong light going onto your screen from behind you can make it very difficult to see the screen and you may strain your eyes trying to read. This can be resolved with better desk/screen placement, or just some good blinds to keep the sun out.

Dust – Clean your computer equipment such as fans and vents to reduce the circulation of dust which can irritate your eyes.

Related Articles

Page Loading

We now accept Klarna as a payment method. You will see this as an available option at checkout when completing the purchase. Dismiss