1. Overview

As an employer, you must protect your workers from the health risks of working with display screen equipment (DSE), such as PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones.

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations apply to workers who use DSE daily, for an hour or more at a time. We describe these workers as ‘DSE users’. The regulations don’t apply to workers who use DSE infrequently or only use it for a short time.

How to protect workers’ health

The law applies if users are, for example:

  • at a fixed workstation
  • mobile workers
  • home workers
  • hot-desking (workers should carry out a basic risk assessment if they change desks regularly)

Employers must:

Incorrect use of DSE or poorly designed workstations or work environments can lead to pain in necks, shoulders, backs, arms, wrists and hands as well as fatigue and eye strain. The causes may not always be obvious.

More DSE guidance

HSE’s leaflet Working with display screen equipment gives more information about how to comply with the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations.

You can find detailed advice on the regulations in Work with display screen equipment.

Advice on using DSE if you’re pregnant or have epilepsy is available.

2. Workstations and assessment

If workers use display screen equipment (DSE) daily, as part of their normal work, continuously for an hour or more, employers must do a workstation assessment.

Employers should look at:

  • the whole workstation, including equipment, furniture, and work conditions
  • the job being done
  • any special requirements of a member of staff, for example a user with a disability

Where there are risks, they should take steps to reduce them.

Employers must also do an assessment when:

  • a new workstation is set up
  • a new user starts work
  • a change is made to an existing workstation or the way it’s used
  • users complain of pain or discomfort

Use this DSE workstation checklist to help make an assessment.

DSE assessment software

Software packages can help train users and help them take part in assessments. But the software is not an assessment on its own.

You should always make sure a trained assessor looks at user assessment results (whether these are software or paper based). The assessor should clear up any doubtful points, provide feedback to users and make sure problems are put right, for example by changes to the DSE or workstation.

3. Work routine and breaks

The law says employers must plan work so there are breaks or changes of activity for employees who are display screen equipment (DSE) users.

There is no legal guidance about how long and how often breaks should be for DSE work. It depends on the kind of work you are doing. Take short breaks often, rather than longer ones less often. For example 5 to 10 minutes every hour is better than 20 minutes every 2 hours. Ideally, users should be able to choose when to take breaks.

In most jobs it is possible to stop DSE work to do other tasks, such as going to meetings or making phone calls. If there are no natural changes of activity in a job, employers should plan rest breaks.

Breaks or changes of activity should allow users to get up from their workstations and move around, or at least stretch and change posture.

Break-monitoring software

Break-monitoring software can remind users to take regular breaks. But employers are still responsible for making sure work activities are properly planned and that users take suitable breaks.

4. Eyes and eyesight testing

The law says employers must arrange an eye test for display screen equipment (DSE) users if they ask for one, and provide glasses if an employee needs them only for DSE use.

DSE work does not cause permanent damage to eyes. But long spells of DSE work can lead to:

  • tired eyes
  • discomfort
  • temporary short-sightedness
  • headaches

DSE work is visually demanding, so it can make someone aware of eyesight problems they have not noticed before (including changes in eyesight that happen with age).

Employees can help their eyes by:

  • checking the screen is well positioned and properly adjusted
  • making sure lighting conditions are suitable
  • taking regular breaks from screen work

Employers must assess DSE workstations and take steps to reduce any health risks.

Eye tests for DSE users

An employer must provide an eyesight test for a DSE user if they request one. The employer must also pay for the test.

This should be a full eye and eyesight test by an optometrist or doctor, including a vision test and an eye examination.

It’s up to the employer how they provide the test. For example, they could let users arrange the tests and reimburse them for the cost later, or they could send all their DSE users to one optician.

Glasses for DSE work

Employers only have to pay for glasses for DSE work if the test shows an employee needs special glasses prescribed for the distance the screen is viewed at. If an ordinary prescription is suitable, employers do not have to pay for glasses.

5. Training and information

Employers must provide health and safety training and information for display screen equipment (DSE) users. Training should be about the risks in DSE work and how to avoid these by safe working practices. It should include:

  • good posture
  • adjusting chairs and other furniture
  • arranging desk space
  • adjusting screens and lighting to avoid reflections and glare
  • breaks and changes of activity
  • risk assessments
  • how to report problems

Employers should also tell users about the general arrangements they have made for health and safety in their DSE work, and how they can apply for an eye test.

Also consider explaining how to use the DSE workstation checklist if users are going to make their own assessment.