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What is a DSE Risk Assessment?
Protect employee health in the workplace – learn what is a DSE risk assessment and why it's important for employers and employees.
Display Screen Equipment (DSE) is a common form of work equipment and refers to anything with a display screen, such as computers, smartphones, touchscreens and equipment with monitoring screens.
Regularly working with DSE without effective precautions can lead to potential ill-health in users, including muscular problems, fatigue and eyestrain. These health issues are typically not caused by the display screen equipment itself but as a result of how it is used.
A DSE risk assessment evaluates the health risks associated with working this type of work equipment. It assesses how equipment is used, such as display, keyboard and mouse placement, the height and position of a user's chair, duration and intensity of the work and adequate working environment such as lighting and temperature.
A DSE risk assessment ensures that an employee works in optimal conditions to avoid a potential risk to their health and wellbeing. It's a legal requirement for employers to undertake a risk assessment for their employees that rely on the use of DSE as a significant part of their work and typically if they're using DSE for an hour or more continuously at work.
What does the term DSE cover?
DSE risk assessments cover any equipment with a display screen, including:
- Computer monitors
- TV screens
- CCTV camera monitors
- Electronic display systems
What does a DSE risk assessment involve?
A DSE risk assessment looks at the potential health risks of regularly using DSE equipment and will consider the whole workstation environment, including equipment, furniture and working conditions such as:
- Chair height and suitability
- Distance of the user from the screen
- Keyboard and mouse placement
- Work duration and demands
- The temperature of the room
- Lighting, such as glare on display screens
- Noise levels
It also assesses the tasks being carried out and any special requirements of employees, such as workstation suitability for pregnant employees or those with disabilities.
Why is a DSE assessment important?
According to research by the Health and Safety Executive, 480,000 employees in Great Britain suffered work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) with 8.9m working days lost in 2020.
Prolonged use of display screen equipment can pose potential health risks, including MSDs. Incorrect set up of workstations and poor positioning of chairs, desks, keyboards and input devices can result in chronic or acute injuries that affect:
- Wrists and hands – cramps, stiffness, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Arms – aches.
- Shoulders – tightness, stiffness.
- Back – upper and lower back pain.
- Neck – pain.
An inadequate work environment when using DSE can also induce mental fatigue and stress, leading to lower performance levels and absenteeism. Visual fatigue may also occur. Eyestrain, dry eyes and headaches may result from poor lighting, screen glare, screen distance and a lack of employee breaks from screen use.
Room noise and temperature can also impact the comfort and the wellbeing of the employees work with DSE.
DSE risk assessments help maintain employee wellbeing and performance levels and reduce absenteeism through time off and potential long term ill-health.
A legal requirement under Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations, a workstation risk assessment must be carried out to protect all employees who are users of DSE from the health risks of working with DSE.
- Carry out a DSE workstation assessments which involve the user and inform the user of the results.
- Reduce risks where practical, such as implementing breaks or changes of activity, providing suitable equipment and catering for individual requirements, such as providing a footrest.
- Provide DSE training and information for all employees.
An employer must provide eyesight tests and eyewear free of charge if the employee requires it to work with DSE. The full eyesight test must include a vision test and an eye examination. If glasses are needed for the sole use of DSE work, employers must meet the reasonable costs of the glasses. Employers must also plan the work of users so as to take regular breaks or change activities to help reduce fatigue, eye strain, mental stress and the potential health dangers of sedentary working.
Providing DSE training and assessments via online learning, such as our IOSH Approved and CPD Certified Display Screen Equipment Training, is easy and practical allowing employees to learn at their own pace.
Who requires a DSE risk assessment?
A DSE risk assessment should be carried out for:
- New employees
- Returning employees
- Hybrid working
- Employees working from home
- Agile working, such as working at a client location
- Changes to existing working setups
- If the employee becomes uncomfortable in their setup
Employers should provide a DSE risk assessment for returning workers as part of their back to work process as a result of Covid restrictions or ill health. Employees who have been away from work for maternity leave or long-term illness may have different requirements, and employers may need to make suitable adjustments to their workstations.
A DSE self-assessment is mandatory when an employee works from home, agile or hybrid A DSE assessment needs to cover all aspects of the employee's workstation, work activity and equipment and which allows reporting on anything that needs adjustment or if there particular issues such as repeated episodes of pain or discomfort. This can be used by an employer to implement changes in agile and hybrid workstations and practices and provide support such as the provision of ergonomic accessories such as a separate mouse and keyboard.
A DSE workstation risk assessment will help the employer establish if the employee is experiencing pain or health issues when using DSE. Adjusts and other controls can involve different equipment tailored to the employee's needs, re-evaluating work activity and training them to the correct DSE practices and postures.
How to carry out a DSE assessment
Employers should carry out an initial DSE assessment of an employee's workstation and may use a software as a service (SaaS) solution like the Workstation Assessment +. It's their responsibility to ensure the equipment, such as chairs, desks and peripheral equipment, are correctly set up. The employer is responsible for sourcing the correct equipment, such as adjustable chairs, and mitigating environmental factors (lighting, noise, temperature). The employee is normally asked to carry out a DSE self-assessment that helps the employer to complete a suitable assessment and evaluate what additional controls are required to provide an ergonomic DSE workstation and meet their compliance obligations.
Online training platforms, such as Praxis42's Display Screen Equipment training and SHINE SaaS, can provide the employee with a more interactive and engaging way of learning and provide compliance data. Users complete a self-assessment form checklist of what to evaluate. The self-assessment form will ask if the employee has any health issues, such as issues with adjusting their chair or pain and discomfort problems.