Working safely with computers
Use of computers and other display screen equipment (DSE) is a very common workplace activity. Although its is relatively low-risk, the improper setup or incorrect use of computers and especially mobile devices such as laptops and tables can lead to a number of health issues including:
- Back pain
- Neck, shoulder and arm pain and disorders
- Eye stain
- Fatigue and stress
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 require employers to:
- Provide computer workstations that meet minimum health and safety requirements.
- Provide computer users with adequate training and information about safe use of computers.
- Provide an eye sight test (available free from an optician) and pay for spectacles if these are required specifically for computer work.
Workstations and equipment
Most modern work areas will meet the equipment requirements in relation to provision of desks and chairs. Provided desktop computers or laptops with docking stations or external monitors are in use they are also likely to meet the requirements for computer equipment.
However, using a laptop or tablet on its own for an extended period without separate peripherals is unlikely to be compliant as it will usually be impossible to achieve a correct working posture with this type of set up unless using either a separate keyboard or monitor.
For a number of years, the University has provided training in computer worstation set up via an external training package known as 'Assessrite' provided, most recently, by Ideagen. From 24th June 2022 this package is no longer available to us and will be replaced, from the beginning of July, by a in-house training and assessment system, hosted on the University's Moodle learning environment.
Until this system is launched we have a short PowerPoint training package available on our Moodle site that can be used as an interim measure.
Our 'Homeworking' training package also contains an extensive section on setup and use of computer workstations that should be viewed with regard to working areas at home. Much of this content is equally relevant to the work environment.
The Moodle training can be found at the link below. (A GUID may be required.)
We would reommend that you view the updated training and workstation assessment expected to be available on the same Moodle link in July.
The University has adopted a self-assessment approach to workstation assessment and you should make an assessment of each workstation you use (both at home and at work) using the form and assessment tool provided on the Moodle link. If you identify issues that need to be improved and you cannot deal with these yourself, you should discuss this with your line manager or local Safety Co-ordinator in the first instance. Further advice is available from IT Services via a IT Helpdesk request or from SEPS.
An assessment template is also provided in the sidebar links.
Eye test and spectacles
All computer or display screen equipment users are are entitled to eye examinations and spectacles paid for by their employer. However, in the UK these are already available as an NHS service from opticians. If you do not qualify for this for any reason, you should discuss the situation with you line manager.
If the eye test indicates that you need spectacles specifically for computer use only, the University will meet the basic cost of a pair of spectacles. This is currently limited to £55 only. The spectacles MUST be specifically required for computer use only and be supported by an Optician's signature to this effect. Opticians are generally aware of the criteria and can advise.
You can purchase more expensive spectacles if you want and are normally expected to buy spectacles yourself and reclaim the University contribution via an expense claim, if you qualify for it. You cannot claim any contribution if you need spectacles for any other reason than conputer use, such as being short-sighted or long-sighted.
When disposing of computing equipment you must comply with the Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment Regulations (WEEE Regs). The University has developed procedures to help you in this and further information is available in the Waste section of SEPS web site.
What are my responsibilities
Line Managers - are responsible for ensuring that new staff complete the computer workstation training and self-assessment as part of the induction process, and should keep records to demonstrate this has been done. They are also responsible for:
- supporting their staff and Safety Coordinators in implementing good computer and workstation practice
- following up actions arising from individual workstation assessments (including equipment replacement or purchase as required) and
- investigating any staff health issues related with computer use and making referrals to Occupational Health, if required.
ANY EQUIPMENT OR FURNITURE REQUIRED FOR COMPUTER USE HAS TO BE PROVIDED BY THE USER'S SCHOOL, INSTITUTE OR SERVICE. NO FUNDS ARE AVAILABLE FOR THIS WITHIN EITHER SEPS OR OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH.
All staff - are responsible for completing workstation training and self-assessment and should ensure that their computing equipment - chair and workstation - are set up and adjusted correctly and that they take regular breaks from computer use. They must report to their line manager any concerns about this equipment or adverse effects which they believe may be arising from use of their workstation.