The phrase ‘Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Training’ could mean anything…some might even think it is something to do with fixing computers. But don’t be fooled by the words! Anyone who regularly uses a computer might need DSE training. DSE training should be carried out by anyone who regularly uses a computer.

In January 1993 The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 came into effect. These ‘new’ display screen regulations became necessary because of the rise in use of display screen equipment, to protect the health of everyone “who habitually uses display screen equipment as a significant part of his normal work”. The computer health and safety display screen regulations even apply to employees who work from home if they sit at a screen for a good part of their work.

Of course, using a screen should not be considered as really dangerous. In fact there has been a great deal of ICT health and safety studies carried out, for example into how a computer may affect eyesight, and the results show there’s no evidence that it causes disease or permanent damage to eyes. The majority of safety concerns related to using a computer are related to poor posture. A relatively high number of DSE workers, particularly those who haven’t carried out DSE training, complain about aches and pains, eyestrain and headaches.

Aches and pains from poor posture can affect the fingers, hands, wrists, arms, shoulders and backs. They are sometimes called repetitive strain injuries (RSI), and they are a type of musculoskeletal disorder (MSD). If nothing is done to help, and staff aren’t given DSE training, these aches and pains may well become serious. Poor typing position or bashing the keys too hard, not taking enough breaks and not changing task regularly are all possible factors in RSI type injuries and early action is important.

Headaches and eyestrain may be exacerbated by screen glare from a poorly positioned computer screen, incorrect contrast on the screen, screen characters which are too small or not in sharp focus or spending too long looking at the screen without a break. Stress from workload and badly designed software can also be a big factor in causing tension headaches.

Statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that although work-related MSDs are on the decrease, they still make up an alarming proportion of the work-related illnesses each year. In 2010/2011 nearly 1.2 million working people were suffering from a work-related illness and of these nearly half (508,000) were musculoskeletal disorders. MSDs are not only the result of computer use of course, other factors such as poor manual handling technique also plays a part.

Computer health and safety isn’t complicated or expensive. Just a few simple adjustments may be all that’s needed to eliminate health concerns and meet display screen regulations. With good posture, a well laid-out and well-positioned workstation, regular breaks and, if possible, the ability to change or alternate tasks during the course of the day many of the problems will be alleviated.

Perhaps, similar to a motorway ‘take a break’ should flash up at intervals on the computer screen of regular users!

A simple adjustment to the workday or workstation can greatly reduce the gradual build up of pain and tension. DSE training discusses these adjustments in further detail, and helps employers meet display screen equipment regulations. DSE training isn’t expensive or time-consuming, and choosing a course with a DSE assessment at the end will give staff a chance to prove what they have learnt.

A concise, easy-to-follow, 30-minute DSE training course is available from The Interactive Health and Safety Company (iHasco). Visit their website and sample their Display Screen Equipment training programme, which includes a full personal DSE assessment.

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