Display screen equipment regulations 1992

Appendix 4, Arrangements for Eye and Eyesight Testing has been revised. It explains revised procedures where the optometrist has prescribed multi-focal lenses for DSE users.

1.  Introduction

This Policy describes the means by which the University will comply with the Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992, along with the subsequent amendments and updated guidance issued in 2003. The Policy is being re-issued to provide further advice on the standards to be applied, and to incorporate the use of a web-based self-assessment program to assist with training and assessments.

The use of the term display screen equipment (DSE), previously known as visual display units (VDUs), covers cathode ray screens and liquid crystal displays, plasma screens and is inclusive of the use of laptops. As well as computers, it will also include many types of laboratory equipment (e.g. microscopes) that use such displays. The Policy is concerned with all aspects of usage, including posture and furniture, visual factors, breaks, environment and training. It is intended to minimise the incidence of work related upper limb disorders (WRULD).

Since the introduction of the regulations in 1992, computer use in the University has risen markedly. The number of cases of arm, neck or back pain caused or exacerbated by computer use has also risen. Referrals of individuals with musculoskeletal problems to the University Occupational Physician have almost doubled since 1998; most of these referrals relate to upper limb disorders associated with DSE use. Most of the occupational health workplace follow-up visits also relate to DSE use.

These cases can progress to disabling work-related illness, but they are preventable. The Policy describes good practice in workstation set up and use, which will help prevent such problems. However, if a person does develop symptoms associated with their DSE use, it is important that they report this to the department or the Occupational Health Service. Early referral of individuals to the Occupational Health Service as soon as symptoms develop will assist in identification of workplace problems and speedier recovery.

2.  Summary of departmental action

(a)  Appoint an individual to oversee the implementation of this Policy and ensure he/she is trained to carry out assessments.

(b)  Identify ‘DSE users’ in conjunction with supervisors/section heads.

(c)  Provide adequate training and information in the safe use of DSE and instruct individuals to report suspected problems at the earliest opportunity.

(d)  Carry out assessments using the checklist or the self-assessment program for all ‘DSE users’ and ensure the findings of the assessment are acted upon.

(e)  Review assessments and make appropriate changes.

(f)  Arrange eye/eyesight testing for users when requested and meet the cost of the test and reasonable costs of any corrective spectacles recommended by a University approved optician for DSE use.

(g)  Report progress of assessments and summarise identified actions to the departmental safety advisory committee.

(h)  Ensure prompt referral to the Occupational Health Service of those with suspected problems from DSE use.

3.  Users

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. In determining who are users, the department must take account of the frequency, duration, intensity and pace of spells of continuous or near-continuous use. An employee will therefore be classed as a user if they:

  • normally use DSE for continuous or near-continuous spells of an hour or more at a time and
  • use DSE in this way more or less daily and
  • have to transfer information quickly to or from the DSE and
  • need to apply high levels of attention and concentration; or are highly dependant on DSE; or have little choice about using it; or need special training or skills to use the DSE.

It is possible that some people’s use may only meet this definition on an intermittent basis. For instance, laboratory researchers might not be users during their normal research activities if their time is split between the laboratory and the DSE. However, during extended periods of processing or documenting results their use of DSE may then meet this classification. It is up to the user and department to be aware of this and ensure that suitable actions are taken at the appropriate time.

Employees who work in other University departments outside of their host department must also be considered. Ultimately it is the University department in which they are located who is responsible for implementing the Policy. However, arrangements may be made to share assessors. Where this is the case, the arrangements must be clearly documented and communicated to the relevant user. If there is uncertainty over who is responsible for these individuals, then the University Safety Office should be consulted.

Users may also include agency employed "temps", although the policy requirements do not extend to the provision of eye and eyesight testing for those persons.

The department’s appointed assessor(s) must be consulted in order to clarify whether a person is a user. In case of doubt advice should be sought from the University Safety Office.

All users are required to adopt a correct posture and follow the sound ergonomic principles in this Policy.

4.  Remote working at premises controlled by employees

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.

5.  Assessment

There is a requirement to carry out an assessment of the workstations of all users using the assessment checklist in Appendix 1 (also available on the Safety Office web site). The diagram at Appendix 2 may also be useful. The assessment should be carried out at departmental level.

It is for the head of each department to decide who will carry out the assessments and appoint appropriate persons. However, the person(s) appointed to carry out the assessments must have been provided with University Safety Office approved training. As indicated, some departments may wish to share an assessor. No assessor should be asked to assess more than fifty persons in each year.

The use of external consultants to carry out assessments is not recommended.

Assessors need to consider all staff. Careful attention should be paid to academic and academic-related employees, as well as secretarial/clerical staff.

If a person believes they have not been appropriately assessed, either by an assessor or by using the self-assessment program (see below), then they must bring this to the attention of their supervisor and/or departmental assessor.

6.  Self-Assessment Program

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:

https://dse.oucs.ox.ac.uk

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.

7.  Review of assessment

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. 

Normally, reviews should be carried out annually. However, if a user relocates or makes significant modifications to their workstation, then the assessment must be reviewed.

8.  Possible health effects of DSE work

Where users experience any DSE related health effects, including those outlined below, then departments must act to minimise the risk of long-term discomfort. Departments should arrange for a reassessment of the work area to be carried out and the employee should be referred to the University Occupational Health Service for advice without delay.

Musculoskeletal disorders:  A variety of "work-related upper limb disorders" (WRULDS) may be associated with DSE use, although the precise causal pathway is unclear. Some users experience discomfort or aches and pains, where others may develop chronic soft tissue disorders. It is important that where such damage is suspected that the person is referred to the Occupational Health Service so an accurate diagnosis can be made in order to help identify the possible causes. The term ‘repetitive strain disorders’ (RSI), sometimes attributed to these disorders, should be avoided as it is not a medical diagnosis and can be misleading. 

Fatigue and stress:  Many symptoms described by DSE workers reflect stresses arising from their work. Symptoms may be linked to upper limb or visual problems but there is evidence that stress often contributes as well. Both supervisors and users, for further information, should consult the University Policy on the prevention and management of work-related stress.

Eye effects: There are no known adverse effects on the eye or eyesight due to DSE work. However, some users experience temporary visual fatigue leading to eye discomfort and may require advice on reducing this effect. Existing eye conditions are not made worse by DSE work, but it is logical to use the appropriate sight correction for such work, as would be expected with any other job needing visual skills.

9.  Requirements for workstations

All workstations must conform to the standards laid down in the Regulations. These are shown in Appendix 3, which is taken from the Health and Safety Executive's Guidance to the Regulations. The assessment process is designed to identify whether there are deficiencies. If departments are unable to implement the standards as set out in Appendix 3, then the University Safety Office should be consulted for further advice.

10.  Breaks/changes of activity

The department is responsible for planning the activities of users such that adequate breaks/changes of activity are achieved. It is advisable, wherever possible, to allow individual employees sufficient flexibility for them to organise their own work as much as possible short, frequent breaks are more satisfactory than longer breaks, e.g. five to ten minutes after fifty to sixty minutes of continuous use is preferable to fifteen minutes every two hours.

Informal breaks, i.e. time not spent viewing the screen on other tasks, are most effective. Breaks should allow users to vary their posture.

11.  Eyes and eyesight testing

When users request eye and eyesight testing, this must be provided. The department is expected to meet the cost of the test and reasonable costs of any corrective spectacles recommended by the optometrist for DSE use.  These costs are outlined in Appendix 4.

When eye/eyesight tests are carried out, the frequency of necessary re-testing will normally be two years unless otherwise specified by the optometrist.

Users are expected to use one of the University nominated opticians. Information on nominated opticians is outlined within Appendix 4.

Employees are not entitled to see an ophthalmic practitioner of their choosing for these tests.

12.  Health and safety training

Users must be provided with health and safety training in addition to any training on how to use the workstation and software. The training element of the self-assessment program can be used, where applicable, to assist with the training.

Training should be carried out at departmental level and should include:

(a)  desirable ergonomic features, e.g. chair comfort

(b)  undesirable features, e.g. reflection and glare

(c)  health risks

(d)  the importance of postural change

(e)  the use of adjustment mechanisms, particularly furniture

(f)  the need to take advantage of breaks and changes in activity

(g)  the use and arrangements of workstation components to facilitate good posture, prevent over-reaching and avoid glare and reflections on the screen

(h)  information regarding assessments

(i)  information regarding eyesight testing

(j)  organisational arrangements for bringing problems and symptoms to the attention of the department.

Departments need to ensure that all users are provided with "in-house" training as soon as is reasonably possible. In accordance with University Safety Policy S5/10 new employees should be given health and safety training before they commence work.

13.  Information

All users whether they be employees, postgraduates, agency temps, visiting academics etc, must be provided with information on the risks of WRULD caused by incorrect posture and poor ergonomics associated with DSE use. They should be provided with information relating to the general principles of good workstation design, such as those outlined in Appendix 2, and the need for breaks and activity changes. They should also be informed of the department’s arrangements for assessments and the names of those persons, in addition to their supervisor, who they can notify should problems develop.

Employees should have the University’s arrangements for eyesight testing explained to them.

14.  Portable equipment, such as laptops, notebook computers and personal digital assistants

The use of portable equipment is ever increasing and users should be advised wherever possible to apply similar principles to those in the Policy as regards posture and breaks/changes of activity.

Prolonged use of portable equipment is subject to the same requirements as non-portable DSE equipment. Portable equipment used within the departments should be considered in the same manner as all other types of DSE. Portable equipment that is used at remote premises though is subject to the requirements of section 4 of the Policy.

Appendix 5 provides a list of practical points to be considered when using portable computers. 

15.  The use of mice

Prolonged use of a mouse can also cause WRULD. Users whose work involves much mouse work should seek to use a mixture consisting of mouse work and alternatives, e.g. trackballs, tablets, mice or keyboard activated commands.  All mouse users should ensure that the positioning of the mouse is fairly close to the midline of their body and should avoid the arm becoming stretched out from their shoulder. 

A selection of alternative mice is available for trial from the Occupational Health Service. DSE assessors are made aware of the alternatives as part of their training and they should be consulted as a first step.

THIS STATEMENT FORMS PART OF THE UNIVERSITY’S SAFETY POLICY.  UNIVERSITY POLICY NOTES S3/03 AND S7/03 ARE SUPERSEDED.  PLEASE AMEND THE INDEX.

October 2009