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, improper setup, incorrect or overuse of computers, and especially mobile devices such as laptops and tablets, 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.

Workstation minimum legal standard
Most modern work areas in the University will meet the equipment requirements in relation to provision of desks and chairs and provided desktop computers are used, or laptops with docking stations or external monitors.

However, using a laptop or tablet on its own for an extended period without a separate monitor or other peripherals is very unlikely to be compliant.  It is impossible to achieve a correct working posture with a laptop on its own unless you are using either a separate keyboard or monitor.  If you are working in this way for long periods in your working day and have not been provided with a more suitable alternative, you should discuss the workstation arrangements with your line manager and make arrangements for a workstation set up that meets the legal requirements.

Training and workstation assesment
The University provides training in computer workstation set up and use via a training and assessment package, hosted on the University's Moodle learning environment. This can be accessed at the link below.  A GUID log in may be required.

Safe use of computers and display screen equipment

On completion of the training, users should use this pacakge to make an assessment or their workstation to help decide whether it meets the essential requirements and is correctly set up and adjusted.  SEPS can offer some additional guidance on this but do require that users complete the training and self-assessment packages first to ensure that users are aware of what they are trying to achieve and that any obvious shortcomings in the workstation have been addressed before further advice is sought.

An assessment template is also provided on this page for those who have completed training and find it more convenient to use this.

Hybrid working and homeworking
The ergonomic risks are the same whether you are working within the University or use a workstation at home and, if you work at home for any part of your job, the workstation that you use must be suitable and meet the legal minimum requirements.  You should carry out an assessment to check that.  Although the University may provide some equipment, the overall working environment and workstation is not directly under its control and user has a repsonsibility to make sure that home workstations are correctly equipped and set up. The University provides guidance on this and will support staff with equipment in some circumstances.  

SEPS provide a 'Homeworking' training package which contains an extensive section on setup and use of computer workstations.  This should be viewed by those working at home and contains advice on other aspects of home working as well a computer use.

Please see our guidance on Homeworking.

Eye sight test and spectacles
All computer or display screen equipment users are are entitled to and eye sight test and, in some circumstances, to spectacles paid for by their employer. In the UK eyesight tests are available as a free 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 sight 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 are normally expected to buy any required spectacles yourself and reclaim the University contribution via an expense claim, if you qualify for it.  This means that you can buy more expensive spectacles if you want, but the University contribution will be limited. You cannot claim any contribution if you need spectacles for any other reason than computer use, such as being short-sighted or long-sighted.

Waste Disposal
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. University-owned computers must be disposed of via this route to ensure legal dispoal and protection of any confidential data that they may hold.