When you think of display screen equipment in the workplace such as computers and monitors, you might not see this technology as being very dangerous. Large factory machinery has the risk of severing fingers and forklifts can cause deadly accidents, but what harm could come from sitting in front of a display screen all day?!
The truth is that a lot of negative health and safety risks are associated with display screen equipment (DSE). It is important that employers assess the risks to employees and contractors when it comes to sitting at workstations and using display screen equipment including laptops and computers during their daily work.
The Health and Safety Regulations of 1992 for Display Screen Equipment were set up to protect the health of employees who work with DSE. These regulations had to be introduced because this has become the most common types of work equipment used today.
What Does a DSE Assessment Include?
According to the Health and Safety Regulations of 1992 that pertain to Display Screen Equipment, there are regulations that require employers to carry out an assessment and analysis of the work station. It must be determined that the work station meets the basic requirements which will allow them to be used without risk to health and safety.
A risk assessment in any workplace is a very close look at the work activities, practices and equipment in order to determine what could potentially go wrong. The risk assessment helps you to decide on suitable measures of control in order to prevent damage, loss or injury in the workplace. The risk assessment also covers the controls that are required to minimise these risks.
So when it comes to performing a DSE Assessment, what does the process include? The first step will include identifying the display screen equipment that you have and making sure you know which operators and users are covered. Also, you should assess the workstations that you have and determine whether they meet the minimum requirements of the regulations.
The first goal of a risk assessment is to determine the risks and after this, it is important to come up with ways that those risks can be eliminated or controlled. This could include providing eye tests and special corrective lenses, ensuring employees get frequent breaks from their work stations and providing training and information about safe DSE usage. You might want to even install software that indicates when it is appropriate for the worker to take a break, as short frequent breaks are better than long breaks.
These health and safety policies should be made available to all workers and they should be enforced within the workplace. For example, computer monitors should be 14 inches away from your eyes and your chair should have a comfortable back rest for support. You should stand up at least every 30 minutes and walk around, stretching your shoulders and your back. It is also important to disinfect keyboards periodically, so that bacteria does not grow on the surfaces.
Essentially, when you are deciding on measures of control you should figure out how to avoid the risk or eliminate it, or adapt the work in a new way. This includes everything from installing new equipment to providing employees with personal protective gear.
Of course, it is always important to involve your staff in the risk assessment. They understand the job best so they will be able to report to you their knowledge and understanding of the work itself. For example, they can tell you whether or not they experience eye strain or neck strain while on the job, a problem you might not have been aware of if they had not let you know. Make sure that you make yourself approachable and encourage your employees to come to you with these issues.
What are the Health Risks of Display Screen Equipment?
There are a number of health risks that are associated with using display screen equipment. When workstations are not designed in an effective way, they can be associated with arm pain, shoulder pain, neck pain as well as eye strain and fatigue. The aches, numbness and pains are sometimes known collectively as upper limb disorders and they can include a full range of medical conditions including repetitive strain injury (RSI).
Human bodies are not designed to sit in front of a computer for 8 hours of the day. In a recent study it has even been found that too much time spent in front of display screen equipment can cause damage to mental health. The study was done by Chiba University in Japan and it found that workers who spent the most time working on computers or at display screen terminals were more likely to feel depressed, reluctant and anxious and can have trouble sleeping.
Employees who sit down at their desk in front of computers all day long also increase their risk of obesity, as well as their risk for cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Numerous recent studies have found that sitting too much and several continuous hours of screen time per day resulted in higher risk factors for these diseases.
Why You Should Conduct a DSE Assessment?
A risk assessment is a very important step to carry out for your business and not only is it required by law; it is also crucial so that you can know where the risks are and determine whether you have taken the right steps to correct it. The minimum legal requirement is for the employer to reduce the risks in the workplace as much as it is “reasonably practicable” – but you can always be proactive and do more for the health of your employees.
Conducting a DSE Assessment is very important, because of the number of health risks that are associated with Display Screen Equipment. As an employer you have a responsibility to your employees to keep them healthy and safe from risk, so make sure that you do everything that you can to improve their working environment.
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