Display Screen Equipment

Ensuring the workplace is safe and healthy for employees can sometimes lead to emphasis on the obvious hazards such as lifting and use of dangerous equipment.

However, the health and safety implications of poorly designed workstations is extremely important in today’s environment where more and more people are working at personal computers and desks for long periods of time.

In addition to the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations there are the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations which relate directly to use of display screen equipment (DSEs). In general these are in place to ensure that workstations and jobs are well designed for individuals and that the risks to health and safety are minimised. The regulations do not cover screens whose main purpose is to show television or film pictures.

There are a number of hazards associated with the use of DSE:

  • Upper limb disorders
  • Tiredness and discomfort to eyes
  • Fatigue and stress
  • Headaches
  • Skin irritation
  • Back and neck strain

All of these hazards can be minimised by ensuring that workstations and work patterns are designed to suit the individual.

The level to which the hazards will affect individuals is dependent on the length of time they spend at DSEs and as a result it is necessary to identify whom these regulations apply to and to what extent.

Factors that should be taken into consideration include:

  • Does the person rely on the DSE to carry out their everyday work?
  • Does the person have no discretion as to whether to use the DSE?
  • Does the person need significant training or skills to use the DSE?
  • Does the person use DSE’s for long periods of time more or less daily?
  • Is fast transfer of information between the user and the screen important to the job?
  • Does the job require high levels of concentration and attention at the DSE?

Legislation and Guidance

An individual will generally be classified as a user or operator if most or all of the following apply:

  • Depends on the use of DSE to do the job (no alternative means readily available to achieve the same results)
  • Has no discretion as to use or non-use of the DSE
  • Need significant training and/or special skills in the use of DSE to do the job
  • Normally uses DSE for continuous or near-continuous spells of an hour or more at a time
  • Normally uses DSE as above more or less daily
  • Job requires fast transfer of information between user and screen
  • Performance requirements of the system demand high levels of attention and concentration

If there is doubt, carrying out a risk assessment should assist in making the decision. To assist you in making that decision please refer to the user classification table.

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations require:

Workstation Analysis

As with all other risk assessments you are required to identify the hazards associated with a work station and ensure that adequate measures have been taken to reduce the risk as far as possible.

Assessments should include those persons who work at home and those using laptop computers. As with all risk assessments the relevant parts should be reviewed on a regular basis or where there is any significant change in the working methods, environment, etc.

Significant change includes:

  • a major change in the software used, the hardware, furniture
  • increase in the time spent using the DSE
  • increase in task requirement such as speed and accuracy
  • relocation of the workstation
  • modification to the lighting
  • Training and information for employees must be given as necessary to ensure the corrective measures etc are understood and put into practice.

Requirements for Workstations

All workstations must meet the following minimum requirements:

Display Screen

  • Image on screen to be stable with no flickering or instability
  • Brightness and contrast to be easily adjustable
  • Screen to be free to tilt and swivel
  • Screen to be free of reflective glare or reflections likely to cause discomfort


  • Keyboard should be tiltable and separate from the screen
  • Space in front of the keyboard must be sufficient to provide support for the hands and arms of the operator
  • The surface should be matt to avoid glare
  • Symbols on the keyboard must be legible
  • Arrangement of the keyboard must facilitate its use

Work Desk / Surface

Must have sufficiently large and low reflectance surface and
A document holder must be supplied to minimise uncomfortable head and eye movements.

Work Chair

  • Must be stable and allow the operator easy freedom of movement and a comfortable position
  • Must be adjustable in height
  • The seat back must be adjustable in height and tilt
  • A footrest should be made available to any person who wishes one

Space Requirements

Must be sufficient space to change position and vary movements


  • Lighting conditions must provide an adequate contrast between the screen and background environment
  • Glare must be avoided by suitable positioning of lighting

Reflections and Glare

  • Workstations should be positioned to avoid any glare on the screen from windows, walls, etc
  • Windows must be fitted with a suitable system of adjustable covering to attenuate daylight that falls on the workstation


When equipping workstations it is necessary to take the noise emitted into account to ensure it will not cause distractions or disturb speech

Heat and Humidity

Equipment must not produce excess heat which may cause discomfort
An adequate level of humidity must be maintained.

Daily Work Routine of Users

Whenever possible jobs at display screens should be designed to consist of a mix of screen-based and non screen-based work to prevent fatigue and to vary visual and mental demands. Where work cannot be so organised e.g. in jobs requiring only data or text entry requiring sustained attention and concentration, deliberate breaks must be introduced.

Eyes and Eyesight

Employers are required, when requested by a user, to provide a sight test including a test of vision and an examination of the eye.

The test should take into consideration the user’s work including the distance from which the screen is viewed. After the initial test, the employer should contact the optometrist or doctor to determine the frequency of re-testing as this may vary for individuals.

If the user requires corrective appliances i.e. spectacles for work with display screen equipment then the employer is liable for the basic cost.

Provision of Training

Adequate health and safety training in the use of any workstation a “user” is required to work on must be provided.

Information about risk assessments and control measures concerning the health and safety aspects of the “user’s” workstations must be given too.




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