The Health & Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 (DSE Regulations implement the requirements of the European Directive on minimum health and safety requirements for work with display screen equipment. They were updated and amended in 2002.
HSE also issued updated guidance at that time.
Definitions of screen equipment
Regulation 1 contains several important definitions:
'Display screen equipment' means any alphanumeric or graphic display screen, regardless of the display process involved.
Thus, the regulations do not only apply to VDU screens, but cover other methods of displaying data, such as microfiche and CCTV screens.
Certain other display screen equipment is specifically excluded from the Regulations:
- display screen equipment contained in drivers cabs or control cabs for vehicles or machinery
- display screen equipment on board a means of transport
- display screen equipment intended mainly for public operation
- portable systems not in prolonged use
- calculators, cash registers or equipment having a small data or measurement display required for the direct use of the equipment
- window typewriters (displaying only a few lines of text).
However, even though excluded from the DSE Regulations, employers still have duties to assess risks from such equipment and to ensure that it is safe to use and without risk to health.
With portable systems, the phrase 'not in prolonged use' is important.
'User' or 'operator' - employee or self-employed person who 'habitually uses display screen equipment as a significant part of his normal work.'
Only users and operators, as defined, are covered by the majority of the regulations, so it is important to ensure that the terms are understood.
Regulation 2 requires employers to carry out a 'suitable and sufficient analysis' of all workstations provided for use by users or operators - in other words, a risk assessment. The principal risks to be looked at for DSE work are defined as:
- physical (musculoskeletal) problems
- visual fatigue
- mental stress.
The assessment must be reviewed when matters change.
Identified risks must be reduced to the lowest extent reasonably practicable.
Where users are required by the employer to work at home on DSE, whether or not the workstation is provided in whole or in part, an assessment must be carried out.
Where users share workstations, such as in shift working areas or where 'hot desking' is in operation, the guidance requires the workstation to be analysed and assessed for all of those who use it and are users or operators, as defined.
It is particularly important that equipment, such as chairs, provided to meet the particular needs of a specific user are readily available to that user at whichever workstation they are using.
Regulation 3 requires that all DSE workstations must meet the Schedule of Minimum Requirements.
This strengthens the original regulations, which only applied the schedule to those workstations to be used by users or operators.
The schedule covers display screens, keyboards, work desks and chairs and environmental factors such as space, lighting, heat, noise and humidity. It also applies rules to the interface between software and users.
Regulation 4 requires employers to ensure that users get periodic breaks or changes of activity away from the display screen equipment.
Ideally, this should be achieved through job design, so that changes of activity and posture occur naturally. Where this is not possible, deliberate breaks must be introduced.
The aim of such changes in routine is to avoid risks of postural fatigue.
Breaks should occur before the onset of fatigue and, if formal breaks, should be short and frequent rather that long, traditional 'tea-break' style. It is better for users to be able to take breaks as they feel the need, rather than having a set pattern.
The employer should ensure, through management and supervision, that adequate breaks are being taken.
Eyesight tests and corrective appliances
Regulation 5 concerns the provision of eye and eyesight tests and payment for certain types of corrective appliance (or glasses).
All new users and anyone who was a user at 1 January 1993 are entitled to ask for an eye and eyesight test under this regulation.
This must be provided, by the employer, free of charge, making use of a 'competent person'. In effect, this means a sight test by a suitably qualified medical practitioner or ophthalmic optician.
Although employers can offer such alternatives as vision screening tests or other methods of indicating need for a full eye test, they cannot prevent a user opting for a full eyesight test instead.
At the first such test, the examining optician should be asked to recommend when a re-test is needed. The user is entitled to this also, free of any charge.
Where the test shows the need for a special corrective appliance, the employer must fund the basic cost. Bi and Varifocal lenses are now included in the definition of special corrective appliances.
Training and Information
Regulation 6 requires the employer to provide all users with adequate training on the workstation - this should include how to arrange the workstation safely and suitably and what to do if the user develops any work-related health problems.
Regulation 7 requires employers to provide information to users and operators on risks identified by the assessment, steps taken to reduce the risks, and, where appropriate, the systems for breaks and for eyesight tests.