Computer Use


What is display screen equipment?

The use of the term display screen equipment (DSE), previously known as visual display unit (VDU), covers cathode ray screens and liquid crystal displays, plasma screens and is inclusive of the use of laptops. In general this will mean the use of computers, but it can include a variety of other equipment such as the use of displays linked to microscopes in Laboratories.

The University is required by law to manage the use of this equipment so that the associated risks are controlled. How this is done is specifically outlined within the University Policy Statement, S8/09

DSE Eyesight Tests

Eye test exam

DSE Self Assessment Program


 However, the following is a summary of your department's key responsibilities:

  • Identify 'DSE Users'
    [NOTE: The term 'DSE User' is defined within the policy statement. Anyone using a computer in the University can undertake the training and assessment, but it is the departmental DSE assessors who will make the final decision as to which actions are appropriate.]
  • Provide adequate training and information in the safe use of DSE and instruct individuals to report suspected problems at the earliest opportunity.
  • Carry out assessments or request that individuals conduct their own self-assessment for all 'DSE users' and ensure the findings of the assessment are acted upon.     DSE Self Assessment Program
  • Review assessments and make appropriate changes.
  • Arrange appropriate eye/eyesight testing for 'DSE users' when requested, and meet the cost of the test and reasonable costs of any corrective spectacles recommended by a University approved optician. (see Appendix 4 of the University Policy Statement, S8/09)
  • Ensure prompt referral to the Occupational Health Service of those with suspected problems from DSE use.



Display Screen Equipment - Frequently Asked Questions

1.       How does my department get access to the University’s DSE online self-assessment program?

University policy S8/09 states:

“The University has developed a web-based DSE self-assessment program. To use this program, individuals must hold a valid University card and have an active ‘Webauth - Single Sign-On account’. The program can be accessed at the following web address:

The program is fundamentally aimed at users. However, anyone with the relevant access provision can use the program for training purposes and to undertake a general assessment. Whether further actions are required as a result of this assessment will be the decision of the appointed assessor, who will review the assessment in light of this Policy.

A member of the University Safety Office will act as ‘administrator’ for the self-assessment program. Departments who wish to use the program must first contact the University Safety Office to discuss its suitability and request authorisation to use the program.

To use the program, heads of department must appoint a ‘coordinator’. The coordinator will identify potential users and issue email requests inviting them to complete the training and assessment. Where individuals receive such a request, they must undertake the training/self-assessment or notify the coordinator as to why this is not required. 

On completion of the self-assessment, the coordinator and other nominated assessors will review the assessment to identify what, if any, further action is required. Where further action is necessary this will be communicated to the individual and the actions will be recorded within the program. “The assessment will be electronically stored for future reference and will be accessible by the individual, coordinator, assessors and the University Safety Office.”

2.       Is the University’s DSE online self-assessment program accessible to all members of the University?

No.  The program is only set up for use by departments, not colleges, and is only accessible to those with a University Card with the following ‘Card Code’ status:

  • MC – Congregation
  • US – University Staff
  • AV – Academic Visitor
  • DS – Departmental Staff
  • GT/GR – Postgraduate

If individuals are unable to access the program, but feel they have the relevant card status, they should first check that the University Card Office has the correct details for both status and department.

3.       Can I refer someone to occupational health with a DSE related problem?

Yes, but you should follow the guidance given in Occupational Health’s ‘7 Step’ guide [click on link].

In addition, you may wish to consult your area or divisional safety officer for help during the initial assessment stage.  In addition, DSE equipment suppliers, such as Osmond Ergonomics or Posturite offer their own assessment service, with advice on available equipment to help make adjustments.

4.       If a University nominated optician is not used for the eye test, do we still cover the cost?

No.  The department must make sure that individuals are aware of this requirement during their safety inductions.  Provided this information was provided, then individuals must use one of the nominated opticians or discuss this with their administrator before an eyesight test is undertaken:

If there is any doubt as to whether costs should be covered, then the University Safety Office must be consulted.

5.       Why do we have to use a nominated optician?

The reason why we nominate certain opticians, and expect the eyesight tests to be done via those opticians, is because opticians interpret the DSE guidance in slightly different ways.  The confusion specifically arises when an optician recommends corrective eyewear, as we are only obliged to cover the cost of a basic set of glasses when the optician identifies a ‘specific’ need relating to the person’s DSE use (not general use).  It is easier for us to maintain the five nominated opticians so we can follow up with our contacts if any queries arise.

6.       If a University nominated optician is used for the eye test, but the prescription is taken to another ‘non-nominated’ optician for the actual glasses, do we still cover the cost?

Yes.  Although the policy does not address this scenario, it is possible for someone to have their eyesight tested at one of the nominated opticians and then take that prescription elsewhere.  However, all of our nominated opticians can do a basic pair of DSE glasses for under £75, so the individual does not have to incur any additional costs unless they choose to.  If they take the prescription to another optician, the University is still only obliged to contribute up to £75.

7.       Does DSE include laptops, tablets, phablets etc..

Yes, although the risks and need for ‘assessment’ will depend on the usual risk factors e.g. usage, period of use, frequency, dependency, and discrepancy.  It is likely that with mobile devices, these will be used in remote locations.  The University policy on DSE related ‘remote working’ will therefore apply – see UPS S8/09 for details.

8.       Do I have to complete DSE risk assessments for students?

University policy S8/09 states:

“The Regulations apply to users of DSE and it is therefore essential, as a first step, for departments/institutions/units (herein referred to as departments) to identify relevant employees. Although the legislation only applies to employees, the interests of postgraduate students should also be taken into account and suitable furniture and working environment provided for them.”

It is appropriate for some form of assessment to be completed for postgraduate students.  DSE Assessors should be consulted in order to advise upon appropriate changes or adjustments for students.

9.       What do I do about members of staff working in colleges?

Colleges are covered by the same health and safety legislation as the rest of the University, so they should have their own arrangements in place to ensure their staff are risk assessed, as necessary.  The staff member should consult their college first to determine if they are able to complete the relevant DSE assessment and adjustments.  If it is decided that the individual’s work comes under the auspices of the department, and not the college, then the University policy on DSE related ‘remote working’ may apply.  University policy S8/09 states:

“Certain employees have the discretion to work away from the University, often at home or within colleges, using computing equipment. Departments and institutions with employees who work at these remote workstations must ensure the following:

(a)  Where any individual has been provided with University equipment, it should comply with the requirements of this Policy and should be maintained in a safe condition. “Safe condition” means that the screen must not flicker and the equipment, including the flexes and plugs, must be physically intact.

(b)  All individuals who use computing equipment, which may be their own, must arrange their equipment such that risk from trips over cabling or flexes is minimised.

(c)  If usage is to the extent that the individuals become “users” for the purpose of their employment in locations away from their normal workstation, they must have the risks of using the equipment and the risk control measures explained to them. However, it is not intended that DSE assessors should make visits to remote locations.

(d)  Users will be personally responsible for:

(i)  Arranging their equipment and workstations in accordance with the diagram in Appendix 2 and taking regular short breaks.

(ii)  Arranging a timely repair if their computer screen flickers or their equipment, including the flexes and plugs, become physically damaged.

(iii)  Reporting, without delay, to their line manager any personal discomfort, e.g. tingling sensations or pains in their hands or forearms or necks, thought to be associated with the use of the workstation.

(e)  These points must be emphasized as part of the formal training of these users and training records must be maintained.

(f)  If ill health symptoms are identified, the line manager must refer the individual, without delay, to the Occupational Health Service. The Regulations apply to users of DSE and it is therefore essential, as a first step, for departments/institutions/units (herein referred to as departments) to identify relevant employees. Although the legislation only applies to employees, the interests of postgraduate students should also be taken into account and suitable furniture and working environment provided for them.”

10.       Who is responsible for providing corrective equipment?

University policy S8/09 states:

“The risks identified in the assessment must be remedied as soon as is reasonably practicable. It is the responsibility of the user’s supervisor to ensure that these actions are implemented.”

On that basis, supervisors should identify the means for providing corrective equipment.  In some cases though, it may be necessary for departments to assist with the provision of corrective equipment e.g. desks.  Any problems with providing equipment should be raised with departmental administrators or departmental safety officers.

11.       Do I have to provide a sit-stand desk, if requested?

No.  The requirement for providing a sit-stand desk should come out of the DSE Assessment process, with relevant advice from the departmental DSE Assessor.  Occupational Health have further advice on the use of sit-stand desk and the benefits from ‘Combatting the rise of the Sedentary Lifestyle’ on their own website.   See