Focus on DSE Safety – staying fit and well for life is a great incentive

Focus on safety for use of DSE

Can working with Display Screen Equipment (DSE’s) lead to physical and mental health harm? 

The short answer is YES!!

(According to HSE statistics, in 2017/18, 469,000 workers suffered from work-related musculoskeletal  and work related upper limb disorders)!

Can we reduce the risk so far as is reasonably practicable?

Absolutely Yes!

Working with display screen equipment is not a high-risk occupation, however it does expose users to potential harm and as such there is a legal duty on employers to put in place controls to reduce the risk so far as is reasonably practicable.  Display screen equipment (DSE) Assessments are a legal requirement and the good news is that if they are done correctly, they can help with combating musculoskeletal disorders and other ill-health effects that DSE users are at risk of developing through time spent at a poorly designed workstation.

The Health and Safety at Work (NI) Order 1978 places a legal duty on employers ‘to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all of his/her employees, so far as is reasonably practicable’.  But it is not all down to the employer!  Employees have a legal duty to ‘take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of anyone who could be affected by their acts or omissions’.  The Management of Health and Safety at Work (NI) Regulations 2000 places a legal duty on employers to identify reasonably foreseeable risks and to reduce those risks so far as is reasonably practicable.  These risk assessments must be written down if there are five or more employees. And as we mentioned before; employees have to legal duty to help their employer to meet these legal requirements.

There is specific legislation regarding the use of DSE’s ‘The DSE at Work Regulations 1992’.  A user is defined as ‘one who works for more than an hour at a time on Display Screen Equipment’.  The Regulations do not apply to workers who use DSE infrequently or only for a short time.

The Regulations state that employers must;

  • Carry out a DSE Assessment
  • Reduce risks including making sure workers take frequent breaks from DSE work or do something different.
  • Provide an eye test if a worker asks for one.
  • Provide information, instruction and training – including refresher.

Many years ago, before the age of word processors, personal computers, laptops, tablets and smart phones many would argue that the workplace was a less stressful environment and it was certainly less sedentary.  Typing on a manual typewriter was taught as part of secondary school education and that teaching included how to assume the right posture to enable a person to sit for hours typing away.  Office workers had to get up from their desk to file documents and thus change their posture and stretch their legs, rather than file and save. This gave the users an opportunity to correct their posture and vary their work tasks.  Of course, there are many hazards associated with working on typewriters, traditional or digital, and we can do a lot to reduce the risk of harm!  Fit and well for life, how does that sound?

Many workers are sitting for hours typing on computers and that practice can have serious repercussions for our health and wellbeing.  Conditions associated with working on DSE include ‘work related upper limb disorders’ eye strain, repetitive strain injury and carpal tunnel problems.  There is also a high risk that users of DSE’s could suffer from the harmful effects of stress which could result in physical or mental disorders.  There are many scholarly articles associating the sedentary nature of computer use with the increase in obesity worldwide.

Provision of good quality information, instruction, training and supervision will reduce the likelihood of DSE related harm occurring.

See below an outline of what needs to be covered in a DSE Safety training course;

  • Definition of a DSE User
  • Types of DSE
  • Employers and employees’ responsibilities
  • An overview of relevant legislation
  • Potential ill-health effects
  • Assuming the right posture
  • Adjusting seating
  • Rotating administration tasks
  • Ergonomics
  • Environmental factors
  • Practical Assessments
  • Implementation
  • Positive lifestyle choices that may reduce the potential consequence of constant use of DSE’s
  • Discussion and critique


Working with display screen equipment does expose users to potential ill-health.  The law puts in place boundaries where employers have a legal duty to reduce the risk (so far as is reasonably practicable), and employees’ duty is to help their employer meet those requirements.  Completion of mandatory DSE assessments and providing comprehensive training and supervision will go a long way to reduce the likelihood of harm.  Individuals can take positive steps to reduce the potential consequence.   Let’s start with focusing on adjusting your chair.

How to adjust your chair 

Height – lever under the seat on the right with up and down arrows.

Set the chair height so that the underside of your elbows are at desk level

Feet – ensure they are placed firmly on the floor.

Sit well back in your chair and make sure your feet are firmly on the floor.

Adjust the chair angle – lever on the right side at the back of your chair

Sitting with the seat horizontal or sloping backwards provides a comfortable, relaxing sitting position while maintaining good posture.  It can nevertheless tilt you slightly away from your desk.  Sitting on a slight angle in a forward position towards the desk relieves pressure under the thighs and provides a more open hip angle and improves back posture.

Adjust the back rest angle – lever on the right, showing backward and forward arrows

When working on an ergonomic workstation a fairly upright sitting position is best.

When talking, at meetings or reading off the screen, reclining the backrest is relaxing and provides a nice change for the back.

Adjust the backrest height – The backrest height adjustments are all different.

A comfortable computer chair has well-shaped backrest cushioning. The most protruding part of this should fit into the lower back around waist level.

You may need to loosen a lever or knob at the base of the backrest. (if there is no knob or lever you must have a rachet style adjustment)

Look out for our next ‘focus on you’ subject; ‘Choosing positive lifestyle choices to potentially reduce the harmful effects of stress’

In the meantime, stay safe!


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