With the current situation of many of us working from home due to COVID-19, we may find ourselves working in different conditions to how we would in our offices. Businesses are required under the Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992 (DSE), to assess works workstations. This still applies to those working from home. As well as there being a legal requirement it also makes business sense to undertake these assessments, as they can help prevent workers from suffering musculoskeletal disorders, eye strain and headaches from poor working postures. It ensures you and your workforce are healthy and productive, which in the current climate is more important than ever.
As far back as 2007, the HSE conducted a survey which found high prevalence of self-reported symptoms in DSE users. These symptoms included headaches (52%), eye discomfort (58%), and neck pain (47%); other symptoms such as back (37%) and shoulder (39%) pain were also frequently reported. Reports of symptoms from DSE are also greater in those who spent long periods of time at their computer or worked for longer without a break.
So what can you do to combat the risks of DSE? Conducting a DSE assessment is not as hard as you may think. The HSE has a DSE Assessment Checklist which talks you through the assessment process and how to set up your workstation: https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/ck1.pdf. This is a very simple to follow process which will allow you to set up your workstation to minimise the risk of injury. Most people working from home will work from a laptop. Laptops are great for short term use. However if working from a laptop for extended periods of time, you should have a separate keyboard and mouse with your laptop screen raised to eye level as per the HSE DSE Assessment Checklist. This helps avoid awkward postures where users lean forward over their laptop and have to look down at the screen. Many will ask how they can buy monitor, laptop stands or even footstools if they are self isolating. The good news is you don’t need to. You can use anything suitable to raise your legs or monitor/laptop as required. Reams of paper or books are a good option if you have these available. If keyboards and mice are required, there are still home delivery options available for those self isolating.
As well as conducting a DSE assessment, regular breaks are important both for your eyes, your body and your mental health (especially if in self isolation). Some things you can do to help with managing the time spent at your workstation:
- Have set start and finish times each day, and don’t be tempted to continue working into the night.
- Set reminders or an alarm to remind you to take a break, and use your allocated break time to it’s full.
- Regularly get up and move. Stretching and moving can really help us from becoming set in poor postures.
- If you are able, go for a walk whilst taking a break.
- Try and manage daily tasks where possible such that they are varied, such that you are not continuously typing or reading from your screen. Make calls away from your desk if you can, and consider reading printed materials away from your desk space.
If you are having issues with your workstation set up contact a health and safety professional who will be able to help identify issues and put in mitigation measures to help. If you have any questions regarding workstation set up, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will happily give you guidance either over the phone or via videoconferencing.