What is a DSE assessment
DSE is an acronym for Display Screen Equipment. A DSE assessment is an assessment of risk from the way we use DSE equipment like our computers, laptops, tablets and other display screens at work. Each workstation should be assessed and the risks reduced as low as is practical.
This assessment looks at how a screen is used and assesses the risks to the user. Like any risk assessments, the aim is to identify the hazards and assess the likelihood and severity of harm to those that may be affected. Then, take action to reduce the risk.
What is DSE
Display Screen Equipment is essentially any screen that has its major role in displaying information. This could be an alphanumeric or graphical display.
Types of DSE include:
- Handheld devices
- TV screens
- CCTV screens
- Equipment display screens
- Projection screens
- Interactive whiteboards
Importance of DSE assessment
As part of any good safety management system it is necessary for risk assessments to be conducted on the use of display screen equipment. This will ensure compliance with legislation and to reduce any risks which may arise from the use of DSE to the user.
It is widely accepted that the main risks associated with working with display screen equipment (DSE) are musculoskeletal upper limb disorders, for example back pain, and upper limb disorders, visual fatigue and stress. Generally, the risks to individual users are relatively low in the short term; however, they can become significant in the long term if best practice is not followed. Where best practice is followed, for example a correctly set up workstation and taking regular breaks, ULDs (Upper Limb Disorders) can be avoided. The piece of legislation covering display screen equipment is the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992. These regulations came into force in 1993 with the intention to implement the European directive on the minimum requirements for work with display screen equipment.
Do all DSE users need an assessment?
Yes, if they use DSE for their work. The Regulations do not apply to users who use DSE infrequently or for less than an hour a day.
What does a DSE assessment cover?
Problems are often caused by the way we use DSE – not DSE itself. The screen might not give you back pain, but the way you sit at it could do. Computer workstations or equipment can be associated with neck, shoulder, back or arm pain, as well as with fatigue and eyestrain.
So, it is not just the display screen that needs to be assessed. Everything to do with the use of the equipment should be considered:
Your DSE assessment should look not only at the equipment itself but the whole workstation. The workstation includes the display screen equipment, the keyboard, mouse, even the furniture such as the desk and chair.
The assessment should also encompass the general environment and includes lighting, reflections, glare, temperature, humidity and noise. All of these elements can impact how the equipment is used, and the risks to users.
Who should do the assessments?
Provided individuals are competent and properly trained, conducting a display screen equipment risk assessment is a relatively straightforward process. Any training should ensure that the trainee is made aware of the main requirements of the display screen equipment regulations and is able to identify hazards. Additionally, the assessor should be able to draw upon additional sources of information, make conclusions, be able to make clear records of the assessment and communicate the findings to those who need to take action, as well as recognising their own limitations.
DSE Assessments: How often should they be completed?
It’s inevitable that bodies will change, habits will develop, chairs will deteriorate, and monitors will be moved around. It’s for these naturally occurring reasons that a regular re-assessment programme should be put in place so that all employees have a DSE check on a regular basis.
Also, the move by businesses to more flexible working patterns facilitated by advancements in technology means that the risks to employees from prolonged use of Display Screen Equipment are increasing.
These risk assessments are important evaluations for employees that work for long periods of time in front of a computer, laptop or any other graphic display screen. Designed to establish the risks and identify factors that can be changed or improved to protect employees, they shouldn’t be limited to the induction process.
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How to carry out DSE assessmentA DSE Assessment
The use of Display Screen Equipment (DSE) is one of the most common work activities in the UK today. Although it does not carry as a high a risk as, for example, work at height, it is not without risk. A high proportion of DSE users complain of repetitive strain injury, muscle ache and back pain.
It therefore pays to risk assess DSE users and ensure appropriate control measures are in place.
A DSE risk assessment should cover the following areas:
- Screen contrast
- Background noise
- Leg room and clearances to allow postural changes
- Window covering if needed to minimise glare
- Software: Appropriate to task, adapted to user, providing feedback on system status, no undisclosed monitoring
- Screen: Stable image, adjustable, readable, glare/reflection-free
- Keyboard: Usable, adjustable, detachable, legible
- Work surface: With space for flexible arrangement of equipment and documents; glare-free
- Chair: Stable and adjustable
- Footrest if user needs one
- Task demands (i.e. Individual’s workload, time spent at workstation, ability to get up and walk around)
- Users should also be encouraged to report any symptoms that they are currently experiencing so they can be investigated as part of the assessment.
- Once the assessments have been completed, they need to reviewed and areas of concern addressed. Typical areas of concern would include:
- Poor lighting or excess glare causing eye strain
- Sitting in a position exposed to draughts
- Inability to adjust workstation to suit user
- Incorrect posture or work station set up
- Requirement to sit at work station for in excess of one hour
- Lack of autonomy over work tasks
Review Control Measures
The majority of control measures are straightforward and inexpensive to implement, such as providing additional equipment in the form of footrests or wrist rests.
However, one of the most effective ways to reduce risk is through staff training. Staff should be educated on the reasons for DSE assessments and the type of symptoms that might occur through poorly set up workstations. This training should include how to:
- Adjust the position of furniture
- Organise their workloads so that they can intersperse sitting at their desks with moving around, e.g. Getting up to go to printer or photocopier
- Clean the screen and mouse
- Organise their workspace properly
- Identify who to speak to should they start suffering from DSE related symptoms
Ensure that there is a good safety culture that makes your staff feel comfortable to report problems. The earlier they are reported the easier it is to prevent lost working time due to DSE use.