The majority of employees these days spend most of their time looking at displays, such as laptops, desktop computers, tablets or smartphones to do their job. A 2018 study showed that office workers, on average, spent 1,700 hours in front of a computer screen a year. However, another study by Specsavers Corporate Eyecare shows that less than half of all employers (47%) feel they fully understand the regulations around workplace eye health.
In this blog we look at the obligation that the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations put on employers whose workers use display screen equipment (DSE) and the guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Display Screen Equipment (DSE) eyecare regulations
The amended Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 put certain obligation on employers to help prevent or control the risk of injury to the millions of workers who spend their days ‘staring at screens’.
These apply to employees who regularly use DSE as a significant part of their normal work (i.e. daily, for continuous periods of an hour or more) and includes employees who hot-desk or work from home, in addition to those who work at a fixed workstation.
What employers need to do
In order to comply, employers must conduct a DSE workstation assessment, provide training and information for workers, and ensure workers take regular breaks from DSE work.
The regulations require an employer to plan the activities of these employees at work, so that their daily work on a display screen is periodically interrupted by breaks or changes of activity. Additionally, if an eye test is requested an employer must provide one as soon as practicable after the request.
Eye tests and glasses
The regulations also state that the employer must fund eye examinations for all screen users and that, if it is found that glasses are required for DSE use, the employer must fully fund these too.
Although the regulations state that non-essential requirements from employees such as designer frames don’t have to be fully funded, the essential corrective frames and lenses do need to be when required solely for DSE use.
Training and information
Additionally, workers should be trained to be aware of good practice in:
- the use of the correct equipment
- sensible short breaks in activity
Why is this important and what can you do to comply?
Some of the many risks associated with longer screen time include eye strain causing headaches and fatigue, difficulty focusing and even blurred or disturbed vision.
To make sure you are complying with the Regulations and encourage the best possible eye health in your workplace, you should start carrying out a DSE risk assessment to identify potential problems for users of DSE. The assessment should consider the display screens, keyboards, work desks and chairs and environmental factors such as space, lighting, heat, noise and humidity.
Some of the things you might want to consider when conducting your assessment relate to both the equipment and the environment.
- the display screen image must be stable with no flickering or forms of instability
- the brightness must be easily adjustable
- the screen must swivel and tilt easily to suit the needs of the user
- the screen should be clear of reflective glare and reflections liable to cause discomfort to the user
- lighting conditions should provide an appropriate contrast between the screen and the background environment
- windows should be fitted with a suitable system of adjustable covering to stop direct sunlight that falls on the workstation