Using computers in the workplace doesn’t automatically seem like the most dangerous work-related activity. However, there are certain hazards that are associated with computing equipment and using display screens several hours a day in the workplace.
These days, almost every office job uses a computer in some way and involves several hours of staring at a display screen. As a result, there has risen a new awareness of the specific health issues that are connected to the daily use of this equipment.
What Health Risks Are Associated with DSE?
There have been many health conditions that have been identified with long term and frequent use of display screens, such as:
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
This is a condition that can be very painful and sometimes highly debilitating. It is caused by repetitive motions in the wrist and hands and can be aggravated by using a poorly placed or badly designed mouse or keyboard. RSI is damage to the musculoskeletal and nervous systems and if the damage is bad, this condition can result in the need for surgery and can persist for years.
Eye strain has been associated with display screen use, because your eyes become exhausted after having to take in the flickering images all day. Eye strain can even lead to headaches and discomfort. It is important to give your eyes a break by looking away from the screen and to make sure that you have adequate lighting for doing your work.
Upper Limb Disorders
Another major issue that display screen equipment and its use can cause is upper limb disorders. This describes a range of problems in the shoulders, arms, back and neck. The pain can be a simple minor ache or can be a much more serious long term problem.
How to Use Display Screens SafelySo what can you do to avoid the risk of health and safety injuries from working with display screen equipment? Here are some tips that you can keep in mind:
- Sit in the right position. Adjust your seat so that your forearms are resting at a 90 degree angle. Make sure that your feet are flat on the floor.
- You should be sitting centrally in the chair, rather than leaning to one side because it places stress on your spine.
- When using a mouse, you should not be holding the mouse too tightly or stretching to reach it.
- Adjust the brightness and contrast controls on the screen to suit the lighting conditions in the room.
- Remember, you can always adjust the text on your screen to make it easier to read when you are sitting in a comfortable position in your chair.
- If you find that you have to repeatedly stretch to reach something in your workstation, adjust the set-up so that the item is closer to you.
- Make sure that your screen is positioned approximately one arms-length away and that the top of the screen is level with your eyes.
- Keep your screen clean and ensure that it is not tilted upwards towards the lights.
- Always ensure that your working environment has adequate lighting.
- Give yourself a break every 20-30 minutes and stretch your muscles. Take this time to look away from the screen and give your eyes a rest.
- Make sure that your workplace has enough space to hold all of the other documents that you will need.
- If workers are experiencing eye strain, back pain, headaches or any other symptoms as a result of doing their job, they should be able to report it to their supervisor as soon as possible.
- Remember that each employee is different and so they will need to adjust their workstation to suit them. The right arrangement for a six foot tall person will be different than that of a person who is four foot eleven.
The Responsibility of the Employer
The responsibility lies on the employer to ensure that workplace health and safety procedures are followed and that display screen equipment is being safely used. Employers have a duty to ensure that they are taking reasonable steps to protect the health and well-being of their employees. This includes any risk of problems associated with display screen equipment.
What should the employer do? First of all, they should be carrying out a risk assessment of the display screen equipment and examining the workstations, to make sure that chairs, screens and all other equipment is positioned in a safe and ergonomic way. Also, they should be welcoming feedback from employees and assessing whether workers are comfortable in their workstations and whether their desks, screens and chairs are positioned in order to optimise the best posture for them. It is also important for the employer to encourage employees to take breaks from the screen. This used to happen naturally in the past, because office jobs used to require other tasks such as copying or filing. However, these days almost everything is done on the computer.
Employers should create a policy of short five minute breaks every hour, so that employees can get a rest from looking at display screen equipment. The responsibility is with the employer to carry out a suitable check and provide the right training for any members of staff whose job involves using display screen equipment. DSE Workplace Health and Safety training is very important and can have a very positive impact upon reducing the risk of injury. Of course, it is also important for the employee to pay attention to their risk of display screen equipment injury. If they find themselves experiencing any symptoms such as back pain or eye strain, they should make their employers aware so that they can resolve the issue.
Also, employees should follow good practices when using display screens to avoid strain injuries. Employers can create a safe working environment for their employers and decrease the risks of display screen equipment by providing their employees with access to DSE courses.