Display Screen Equipment

 What is DSE?

Display Screen Equipment, or Visual Display Units, are devices which have a graphic display screen. This includes equipment such as desktop PCs, laptops, tablets and similar items.

 Are there health risks?

Users of DSE may experience fatigue, eye strain, limb problems and backache. Normally this is due to overuse of the equipment, poor posture, failing to take adequate breaks and move around, or a poorly adjusted work station and chair. Sometimes it is a combination of all of these factors.

 What is the University's stance?

The University’s policy on DSE can be found here. The University is committed to complying with relevant Health & Safety legislation and providing as much assistance to staff as is practicable; however, personal responsibility is required by DSE users to ensure they are minimising potential risks to themselves. Working through the resources provided and following best practice will ensure this.

 How can I help myself? Including working at home

A significant factor for University DSE users is how well adjusted their work stations are. Users should work through and fill in the Health and Safety Executive’s handy self-assessment.

If you are temporarily working at home (rather than in a role that is permanently based from home) the HSE has produced guidance on arranging your work space within your home.  Additional guidance is also available from our EAP on Agile Working and our briefing note on how to set up a home-working station. The HSE sets out minimum standards for a home workstation which are summarised here. Should you find that you have difficulty achieving a suitable work area your local DSE Assessor may be able to help. Often this is your local Health & Safety co-ordinator. You can find yours by clicking here.

It is very important to monitor working habits and take regular breaks from using DSE – long durations in front of a computer can be detrimental. Shorter, more frequent breaks are ideal and may need to be planned in to your working day. Give the following a try:

  • Prioritise posture: the above self-assessment contains a pictorial guide to good practice, as does this information from  Osmond and Posturite. Comprehensive information regarding ergonomics and work station solutions is also available.
  • Change your activity regularly before fatigue sets in – varying tasks can let you move around more.
  • Stretch! Simple, useful exercises and guidance can be found on the Posturite website.
  • Make sure to frequently re-focus your eyes into the distance and keep them as moist as possible by blinking.

Simple best practice is the key to reducing risk – are you sitting comfortably?

Don’t forget to review your working practices if your workplace changes!

Further advice has been prepared in view of the COVID19 pandemic: Home working with DSE, further guidance. CIEHF working from home

I'm stuck with the self-assessment - help!

The University has trained local DSE assessors in order to guide you through the process and help with any necessary adjustments. Often this is your local Health & Safety co-ordinator. You can find yours by clicking here.

Assessors only can access the DSE Assessors’ Community by clicking here.

 I use a laptop, what should I do?

The above advice applies to portable device users, however there are additional things to consider:

  • Risk assess the manual handling of the device, especially if you carry it in conjunction with other heavy items.
  • Ideally a docking station should be used along with a separate, full sized monitor.
  • If you are unable to use a separate monitor the laptop should be raised to the appropriate height using a laptop raiser. 
  • Ensure the device is on a firm surface; use a mouse and full-size/compact keyboard wherever possible.
  • Adjust the screen tilt and height (with raiser blocks if needed) to ensure a comfortable position with minimal glare.
  • If you cannot prevent a temporary awkward position you will have to take more frequent breaks.
  • Try to avoid long-term use of such devices unless they are optimally adjusted for you.
  • If you are to regularly work at home or are working at home or away from your base for a prolonged period and you need equipment then this should be discussed with your line-manager.

Posturite have provided guidance for Laptop workstation set-up in graphic form.

  • If you are unsure and require advice you should contact your local DSE Assessor who will be able to help.  Find yours by clicking here.

Are there other resources available?

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy website is a free comprehensive resource detailing myriad common ailments and how you can help yourself with exercises.

Am I entitled to an eye test?

Providing eye tests for DSE users is to enhance comfort and efficiency by identifying and correcting vision defects, thus helping to prevent temporary eyestrain and fatigue. There is no reliable evidence that work with DSE causes any permanent damage to eyes or eyesight, but it may make users with pre-existing vision defects more aware of them.

The employee must obtain authorisation from their manager / supervisor or budget holder, using the relevant College / School / Department process, prior to making an appointment. Once approval has been given the appointment can be arranged with the employee’s local optometrist, with the cost borne by the University in arrears – the process varies locally, so please check beforehand (see Appendix 3) for a suggested form that could be used). When booking the appointment, you need to mention DSE and know the distance between your eyes and that of your screen. Most tests include this, but it is best to have this information handy. Evidence from the optometrist will be required to support any claim for additional contribution.

The University will pay for a standard frame and lens when it is identified that prescription glasses are required for intermediate distance or contribute a maximum of £50 towards more expensive frames or lenses (bifocal/varifocals). Please note the University will not pay for spectacles which are used for other purposes such as reading or driving in addition to display screen equipment work. Therefore, if an ordinary prescription is suitable for DSE work, the University does not have to pay for the spectacles.


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