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June 4, 2019

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What do you really need to know about DSE?

From cycle to work schemes to free fitness trackers, there’s a growing number of businesses in the UK paying attention to the wellbeing of their people. This article from Jo Blood, Co-owner and Managing Director of ergonomic workplace consultancy Posture People, discusses whether DSE assessments are still relevant and how to conduct them.

Although there is a general positive trend of employee wellbeing, this recent study by Specsavers Corporate Eyecare suggests that the fundamentals of safe office working practises might be forgotten in the midst of free breakfasts. Their research from over 500 senior decision makers from UK companies concluded that only 10% were fully DSE compliant.

What is a DSE assessment?

DSEDSE stands for Display Screen Equipment. Set out in the 1992 DSE health and safety regulations, the assessments are put into place to protect employees working with laptops, alphanumeric or graphic display screens, touch screens and other similar devices. In companies that have five or more staff, a record of a DSE assessment must be kept on file for any employee working with any of the devices listed above.

As workplace assessors, we believe that it is good practise for companies of any shape and size to conduct assessments for their team regardless of the size of the company. If your team spends a lot of time sitting, making their workstation safe and comfortable can have a positive effect on productivity.

Are DSE assessments still relevant and important?

Our work equipment and landscape has drastically changed over the past 20 years. Released in 1992, following DSE guidelines won’t just keep you legally compliant, but they can also be a simple and cost-effective way to improve your workplace wellbeing in a practical and measurable way.

A display screen equipment assessment is a great opportunity to open a dialogue with your employee on a one to one basis. During the assessments we conduct, we cover everything from pre-existing medical conditions and disabilities to stress levels and ways of working. If your employee is happy to share this information with you, it allows you to make the necessary adjustments for their health, comfort and happiness.

We need to start looking at DSE differently. Rather than paying lip-service to the legislation guidelines, it could be an opportunity to reduce long term sickness, improve employee retention and provide the building blocks for a meaningful wellbeing scheme.

What are the fundamentals of a good DSE assessment?

When conducted correctly, the regulations extend far beyond the provision of an eye test and delve into whether the individual is working safely from eye care to posture. A crucial part of the DSE legislation is that the employer must make reasonable adjustments and provide an appropriate workstation:

  • DSEDoes the employee have a recent eye test on file? The employer is obliged to foot the bill for an eye test, and if it is decided that they need glasses for DSE work, basic frame and lenses;
  • The person in charge of conducting the DSE assessment must be adequately trained to deliver the assessment. A good training course will usually consist of an overview of the risks, how to approach team members about their queries and hands on practical experience on how to set up standard workstation equipment;
  • The person having the DSE assessment must be provided with instructions, information and health and safety training so that they fully understand any risks and safe working practises. If they’ve been presented with an ergonomic workstation, they won’t feel the positive effects if they can’t adjust it to suit their body. Furthermore, you’ll need to provide them with the process for reporting any issues should they notice any problems or risks arising;
  • The individual needs to be provided with suitable workstation which includes an adjustable chair with five star base and the relevant equipment for their role.

How to conduct a DSE assessment

There are three main ways to conduct a DSE assessment: Online systems, printed self-assessments or bringing in an independent company to conduct them on your behalf. Dependent on the size of your company, you will need to weigh up how you will efficiently conduct the assessments and how you will safely store them in line with your HR and GDPR policies.

We usually find that companies will require a mixture of services to make sure they stay compliant. Whilst a self-assessment is a cost-effective option, if you have over 50,000 staff it might not be the most practical way to complete your DSE assessments. For larger companies, an online system to flag up the people that need extra assistance would be the most efficient way to focus your resources. Combined with employee and assessor training, you’ll be well on your way to the prevention of musculoskeletal issues.

Should smartphones be considered as DSE?

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Nigel Evelyn-Dupree
Nigel Evelyn-Dupree
2 years ago

Mmm, the 1992 DSE Regulations were not future proof then and the HSE RR 561 2007 effectively dismissed the regulations as ineffective, the 2012 EU MSD Directive failed to launch and, regardless of the new ISO 45001 “Work Exposure Limits” occupational health standards, the majority of DSE operators are still suffering presenteeism and having to “carry-on regardless” with debilitating eye-strain resulting in predictable visual repetitive stress injuries / monocular 2D adaptations declared a Global Pandemic by the WHO under the generic heading of Asthenopia. No wonder only around 10% making any reasonable attempt to prevent or mitigate CVS or Screen… Read more »

Deborah Stickland
Deborah Stickland
2 years ago

Let’s not forget one of the benefits of the DSE Regs which has stood the test of time which is the requirement for chairs to be adjustable in height and the back rest adjustable in height and tilt as sitting for long periods without support for the curve of the spine can lead to slouching (which flattens the natural curve) and strains the structures in the lower spine. The DSE Regs reminds companies of the requirement to buy compliant chairs that will adjust to support the individual, reducing harm to the spine, hips and knees. Something which did not happen… Read more »

Nigel Evelyn-Dupree
Nigel Evelyn-Dupree
2 years ago

That, of course is accepted, nevertheless visual MSD’s or RSI’s remain significantly the highest risk (HSE RR 561 2007) and, it would not be counter intuitive to make a connection between eye-strain in 58% of operators predictably experiencing presenteeism, carrying-on regardless self-harming as, visual stress / fatigue contributes to loss of capacity in 47% of those operators ability to sustain optimal posture as, exposure to sub-optimal screen ergonomics exceeds an hour a day on-screen while WRULD’s and other MSD’s continue directly affecting operators wellbeing and performance by an average of 20% or 30 days lost productivity. The HSE Better Display… Read more »

2 years ago

I’d love to know how this is still relevant with agile working on the rise and the potential for employees to be working in other environments such as coffee shops, libraries, on trains and home at a dining room table etc. None of these will have 5 star base chairs etc. In reality how may employers will provide all staff with a desk, chair etc at home, and how many homes have the space to accommodate them? Most likely to be a kitchen table and chair or sofa. I totally agree about managing the use of VDU’s with employees but… Read more »