Health and safety and computers

Employers need to manage the risks to their employees of working at computers for long periods of time. DAS Law’s Bethan Mack explains.

16th October 2019

One concern for computer-based workers should be posture. Sitting in a poor position for a whole working day, or even part of the day, can cause a lot of health problems, especially with the back and neck.

Another worry is spending a long time in front of an electronic screen, which can be damaging to the eyes.

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 set out how employers should handle the risk of working with computer equipment. These regulations place obligations on employers whose employees use display screen equipment (e.g. computers and laptops) daily for continuous periods of an hour or more.

The following information will help to ensure that your company is compliant with the legislation.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises that you must:

  • Analyse workstations to assess and reduce risk
  • Make sure workers take breaks from screen work
  • Provide information and training for workers
  • Provide eye and eyesight tests on request, and special spectacles if needed
  • Review the assessment when the user or DSE changes.

DSE Workstation Assessments

You should carry out a DSE assessment for each member of staff who uses DSE as part of their normal work in order to identify the DSE-related risks that each individual faces. From this you should be able to ascertain what needs to be done and ensure that any necessary action is taken.

In general there are a number of things that you can do in order to reduce the risk to your employees involved with DSE use. When carrying out your assessment you can use these as pointers as to whether your employee is at any risk.

Some of the recommendations made by the HSE for the reduction of risk to your employees resulting from the use of DSE are:

  • Glare or bright reflections from the screen should be avoided. This can be accomplished by making sure that it is not facing windows or bright lights.
  • Curtains or blinds should be used to block out intrusive light.
  • There should be space under the desk for employees to move their legs.
  • Space should be left in front of the keyboard for the hands and wrists to rest when not typing.
  • Good typing technique should be encouraged, i.e. keeping a soft touch on the keys and not overstretching the fingers.
  • The mouse should be positioned within easy reach of the user.
  • The user should be sat upright and close to the desk so that the mouse-using arm is not stretched.
  • The forearm should be supported on the desk and the mouse shouldn’t be gripped too tightly.
  • Characters on the screen should be sharp and in focus, and should not flicker or move: The monitor may need to be adjusted or repaired if this is not the case.
  • The brightness and contrast should be adjusted to suit the surroundings.
  • Text should be large enough to read in a normal comfortable working position, and colour schemes which are hard on the eyes should be avoided.

Breaks from DSE time

Breaking up your employees’ time at their computer can help avoid health problems. Giving them structured or organised rest breaks can help to achieve this. Other things you can recommend your employees to do are:

  • Stretch and change position
  • Look into the distance from time to time and blink often

The HSE advises that action should be taken before employees get tired rather than after, and that short and frequent breaks are preferable to long and infrequent ones.

Eye test requests

If an employee that uses DSE or will potential use DSE requests an eye test, the employer is required to arrange and pay it. If the result of the test is that the employee needs glasses specifically for DSE work then you must pay for a basic pair a frames and lenses.

You have freedom of choice with regard to how you provide eye tests – some employers allow their employees to choose where they have their test done and to foot the bill, while some choose to send all employees to a specific optician.

Reviewing DSE assessments

You should review your DSE assessments when:

  • Major changes are made to equipment, furniture, work environment or software
  • Employees change workstations
  • The tasks performed by employees with DSE change considerably
  • Controls in place may be causing other problems.

Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created. Note that the information was accurate at the time of publication but laws may have since changed.

Is there a time limit for providing an employee with a P45?

As an employer, you are required to tell HMRC when somebody leaves or retires, and deduct and pay the correct tax and National Insurance.

October 2019 Learn more
How working time regulations can limit your employees’ hours

A study by French researchers has highlighted some of the health risks faced by those working long hours. Sarah Garner, Solicitor at DAS Law, looks at the specific rules and regulations regarding the working day.

July 2019 Learn more
6 tips for giving your business a “spring clean”

Are your staff handbooks up-to-date? Are your staff taking all of their holiday allowance? Give your business a spring clean with these six tips for a clean and tidy SME.

April 2019 Learn more
How to avoid workplace discrimination in your business

Businesses must do all they can to prevent discrimination in the workplace and being up-to-date with equality law is essential.

April 2018 Learn more

Read more from the DAS Law blog

Employment disputes ‘Self-isolation’ – what it means and its possible impact on your rights and pay

More and more people in the UK are being told to self-isolate to minimise the spread of the Coronavirus. What impact will this have on workers’ rights and pay?

February 2020
Employment disputes Do employees get extra pay on a leap year day?

Every four years, many workers find themselves cramming an extra day of work into an already packed year. But are workers in the UK entitled to extra pay for this extra work?

February 2020
Employment disputes Braving the storms: what every employee and employer needs to know about winter commuting

If you run your own business, bad weather can cause chaos when staff can’t get in. What employment law regulations are in place when handling transport troubles in winter?

February 2020
Employment disputes My employer is advertising my job. Where do I stand?

DAS Law’s Lauren Woolf explains what to do if you find out your employer has been advertising your job without informing you that you are being dismissed.

January 2020
General advice , Employment disputes Beware the perils of sharing colleagues’ Christmas party antics on social media

Are people allowed to record and share your more embarrassing moments without your permission? What does the law have to say?

December 2019
Employment disputes , Goods and services disputes All you need to know about tipping

Are we legally obliged to tip? Does that money actually go to the staff or is it kept by the business owner? Thomas Pertaia has the answers.

December 2019
General advice , Protecting your business , Commercial disputes Understanding the definition of defamation

Defamation can be a complex area of the law but this simple guide from DAS Law’s Damien Field will hopefully help you to understand it a little more clearly.

November 2019
General advice , Protecting your business , Commercial disputes Distinction in Defamation – the difference between slander and libel

Defamation is the expression of an untrue insinuation against a person’s reputation. But what is the current law on defamation? DAS Law’s Saiful Ahmed explains.

November 2019
Employment disputes International Stress Awareness Week: your workplace rights

To mark International Stress Awareness Week, Hannah Parsons, a solicitor at DAS Law, takes a look at what the law says your employer needs to do about stress.

October 2019
Protecting your business , Setting up a business 4 things you need when you run a business from your home

Running a business from your home could make it easier to balance your home life with your work, but there are a number of extra rules that you will need to consider.

October 2019
Protecting your business , Goods and services disputes What businesses need to know about selling products

By law, any goods that you sell must be as described, of satisfactory quality, and fit for purpose. If the product fails to meet any of these criteria, the buyer is entitled to a refund.

October 2019
Employment disputes , Protecting your business Health and safety and computers

Employers need to manage the risks to their employees of working at computers for long periods of time. DAS Law’s Bethan Mack explains.

October 2019
Employment disputes Is there a time limit for providing an employee with a P45?

As an employer, you are required to tell HMRC when somebody leaves or retires, and deduct and pay the correct tax and National Insurance.

October 2019