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Display Screen Equipment - are you compliant

Napthens - May 4th 2021

For the last 12 months there has been a huge shift from office working to home working due to the pandemic and there will be a lot of employees now working from their kitchens, living rooms or if they’re lucky a home office, but what does this mean for an employee’s health?

What is DSE and why is it important?

DSE refers to Display Screen Equipment such as desktop computers, laptops, tablets, TV screens and even smartphones. The HSE (Health & Safety Executive) class anyone who uses at least one of these for an hour or more at a time as a DSE user.

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations have been in place for 28 years now and yet we regularly see companies who aren’t compliant. There are a lot of DSE users who in 2021 still don’t understand the health risks of working on a computer all day.

In 2007 a study was carried out by the HSE to determine the levels of DSE work-related ill health in UK office workers. The study involved a questionnaire survey of a sample of DSE users in organisations of different sizes and sectors across the UK to determine the prevalence of work-related ill health.

The survey results are based on the study group of 1,327 DSE users who replied to the survey carried out during 2006. Below are some of the key findings from the study, but you can find the full report here:

  • 73% of all respondents to the questionnaire survey reported one or more musculoskeletal symptom.
  • 12-month prevalence of individual musculoskeletal symptoms ranged from 12% for elbow and forearm symptoms to 47% for neck symptoms. Symptoms involving the shoulder, neck and back were most frequently reported together.
  • Slightly over half of all respondents reported symptoms affecting the head and/or eyes.
  • Symptoms were reported more frequently by women than men.
  • There was little evidence of differences in prevalence between companies of different sizes or different industry sectors.
  • Occurrence of anxiety, depression and distress was marginally more common among younger respondents and anxiety occurred more frequently in women than men. There was little difference in the occurrence of distress, anxiety or depression between companies of different sizes or sectors.
  • Occurrence of anxiety, depression and distress were more frequent among those who typically worked more than 5 hours over their contracted hours each week; distress was more common among those who worked more than one hour without a break; and anxiety and depression were more common among those who spent longer per week at the computer.

What are the risks?

A variety of ill-health symptoms have been associated with intensive DSE work including musculoskeletal disorders (upper limb disorders; back pain) and mental stress. Increasingly, we find a lot of employees mentioning symptoms Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) like Carpel Tunnel.

For businesses there are a number of risks as musculoskeletal disorders and mental health issues made up 82% of all working days lost in 2019/2020 and in that same year an incredible 32.5 million working days were lost to work-related ill health.

In relation to RSI’s there are a number of alarming figures from studies carried out around the world over the last 20 years which show the risk to employees and the effect it has on businesses. It has been reported that employees suffering from occupational RSI take an average of 23 days to recover.

What should businesses be doing?

As per the guideline’s employers need to:

  • Provide training. This is something that a lot of employers seem to miss. We tend to find that employees are asked to complete DSE self-assessment forms but are not or have not been given any training into DSE risks and how to prevent them. There are many e-learning platforms which provide DSE training and if you need to know more you can contact our Health and Safety team about our e-learning platform.
  • Carry out a suitable and sufficient analysis of workstations. This includes home setups. Ensure that employees working from home complete a DSE self-assessment and if they report health issues you should seek guidance on what action needs to be taken.
  • Allow and encourage employees to regularly take breaks from their computer, this could be as simple as getting up to make a brew or getting up to go to the printer.
  • Provide regular eye tests.
  • Provide adequate information on all aspects of health and safety relating to their workstations including how to use software.

By being proactive in addressing DSE you can improve the culture of the business, increase employee productivity and increase happiness levels of employees who see their company taking an interest in their health and wellbeing. If you need assistance with DSE e-learning or one-to-one DSE assessments get in touch with the Napthens Health & Safety team!