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Code of Practice - Display Screen Equipment (DSE)

The health problems associated with display screen equipment (DSE) work are upper limb disorders (including pains in the neck, arms, elbows, wrists, and fingers); temporary eyestrain (but not eye damage) and headaches; and fatigue and stress. 

Only a small proportion of people who use DSE actually suffer ill health as a result. Usually these disorders do not last, but in a few cases they may become persistent and even disabling. There may be a sudden onset of symptoms in response to short-term activities, or development may be gradual and caused by longer-term poor provision or practice. Timely reporting, investigation and action to remove the cause of problems is vital to prevent worsening of symptoms and to promote recovery. The causes may not always be obvious and can be a combination of factors, but enough is known about the importance of some measures - for example, the need to sit properly and to have frequent breaks from the screen - to allow the risks to be tackled effectively. 

The Regulations relating to work with DSE are the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations, and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations. The provisions of the DSE Regulations apply only to DSE 'users', i.e. workers who habitually use DSE as a significant part of their work. Where the DSE Regulations do not apply, the other legislation will require that the assessment of risks and measures taken to control them should take account of ergonomic factors applicable to display screen work. In practice this means that the minimum standards for workstations apply.

This DSE Code of Practice applies to all University employees, permanent or temporary, who are classed as DSE users while they are undertaking DSE work for the University either on or off campus. It also applies to DSE 'operators' who are not University employees but who are working for the University e.g. self-employed or agency employees.

This Code and supporting Guidance and forms are available on the University Health and Safety web pages.

Definitions of terms

Display Screen Equipment (DSE) means any alphanumeric or graphic display screen, regardless of the display process involved. DSE includes conventional (cathode ray tube) display screens, and liquid crystal or plasma displays used in flat-panel screens, touchscreens and emerging screen technologies. Display screens mainly used to display line drawings, graphs, charts or computer-generated graphics are included, as are screens used in work with television or film pictures. It also includes microfiche readers.

The following are excluded: DSE mainly intended for public operation (e.g. for students' use), portable systems (e.g. laptops) not in prolonged use; scientific and other equipment having a small data display required for direct use of the equipment; and window typewriters.

Portable equipment that is habitually in use by a DSE user for a significant part of his or her normal work (see the definition of 'user' below) should be regarded as covered by this Code. The University Health & Safety Unit can advise on the application of the Regulations and this Code of Practice to portable equipment.

Workstation means display screen equipment, accessories such as disk drives, telephone, modem, printer, document holder, work chair, work desk, work surface and the immediate work environment (lighting, temperature and humidity, noise, and space) around the display screen equipment).

Workstation minimum requirements are the minimum requirements set out in the DSE Regulations for components present in DSE workstations. They cover the equipment, the working environment, and the interface (for example software) between the computer and the user/operator. 

User means a University employee who habitually uses DSE as a significant part of their normal work. Users:

  • normally use DSE for continuous or near-continuous spells of an hour or more at a time;
  • use it in this way more or less daily;
  • have to transfer information quickly to or from the DSE; and also
  • need to apply high levels of attention or concentration; or are
  • are highly dependent on DSE or have little choice about using it; or
  • need special training or skills to use the DSE.

The University generally regards all those staff who routinely use DSE to any extent as DSE users for the purposes of this Code. The status of post-graduate and research students may not be directly equivalent to that of an employee, but Faculties and Offices generally regard their post-graduate and research students as users for the purposes of this Code. Though undergraduate students are not DSE users under the University's duty of care, the basic workstation minimum requirements are taken into account in the provision of Campus and Faculty computing facilities. 

Operators carry out similar work to users but are not University employees although they are working for the University e.g. self-employed or agency employees.

Assessment means an analysis of the workstation for the purpose of identifying the hazards (things with the potential to cause harm) and evaluating the health and safety risks (the likelihood and severity of harm) to which those using it are exposed.

Eye and eyesight test means a 'sight test' as defined by the Opticians Act legislation. This should be carried out by a registered ophthalmic optician or optometrist or a registered medical practitioner with suitable qualifications (see The College of Optometrists 'Guidance for Professional Conduct').

Arrangements for DSE User information and training 

DSE user information is provided through the University Health & Safety Unit and made available on the University Health and Safety web pages. It is included in new staff inductions and the workstation assessment arrangements, and should also be provided as periodic reminders. The information provides DSE users with guidance on health effects of DSE work and recommended best practice for work and workstations; the University's arrangements for DSE workstation assessments including on online self-assessment system ('WorkRite'); and the arrangements for eye and eyesight tests and provision of spectacles if prescribed specifically for DSE use.

Arrangements for DSE workstation assessments 

DSE Assessors

Display Screen Equipment Assessors are appointed by their Faculty Operating Officer/Director of Directorate to assist them in health and safety matters, especially in the dissemination of information on good practice for DSE work, monitoring of staff group self-assessments, carrying out further DSE assessments for staff where necessary, and keeping of appropriate records. DSE Assessors should be introduced to new and transferred staff during local inductions in order to provide information on good practice and the arrangements for eye and eyesight tests and spectacles if required for DSE work. They will advise on any immediate issues and initiate the online workstation self-assessment process.

DSE Assessors attend one day training provided through the University Health & Safety Unit. This includes an introduction to the health effects of DSE work; legal and University H&S Policy requirements; recommended best practice for work and workstations; the University's arrangements for self-assessments; and the University's arrangements for eye and eyesight tests and provision of spectacles specifically for DSE work. The training includes practical guidance on the online self-assessments and record management system. DSE Assessors have access to advice and assistance from the University Health & Safety Unit. 

Workstation assessment

The DSE workstation assessment process is included in new staff inductions, and in similar inductions for staff transferred to the Faculty/Directorate or existing staff who become users.  The process is generally initiated and managed day-to-day by the assigned DSE Assessor. An online self-assessment is used to record the DSE user's own comments on their workstation and any health or medical problems, and any additional comments, remedial actions or recommendations arising from any assessment.  Progress on actions and reviews of the assessment are recorded on the online format.  The online record is accessible to the local DSE Assessor and the University Health & Safety Unit and is generally held electronically but may be kept as hard copy. 

The DSE user carries out an online self-assessment of their workstation by following the login information in an initial request for self-assessment; considering the University's DSE user information provided in online training and on the portal; and then answering the questions in the DSE workstation assessment online questionnaire. The user is expected to make simple adjustments themselves where possible, and to report any outstanding problems under the relevant headings of the online questionnaire.

Any issues identified during the online self-assessment will be automatically notified to the local DSE Assessor.. Where the DSE user fails to complete the online self-assessment, the online DSE assessment system will send reminders and, if there is still not response, the local DSE Assessor will be notified by the system.  Problems can be reported and an assessment requested if and when circumstances change.

Where problems have been reported, the DSE user's Faculty/Directorate DSE Assessor, Line Manager, FOO/Director, University Health & Safety Unit or University Occupational Health and Wellbeing Service (OHWS) as appropriate, will work with the DSE user to identify, initiate and review relevant improvements.

Where problems have been reported, a further workstation assessment will be carried out to identify and initiate improvements. If the DSE user has reported problems only with their workstation, the assessment will normally be carried out by the DSE Assessor, with advice from the University Health & Safety Unit if necessary. When the DSE user has reported pain or discomfort associated with their DSE workstation or work, the University Health & Safety Unit will carry out a formal workstation assessment taking account of reported pain and discomfort or other adverse health effects and any constraints these may place on the DSE work.

The assessment by the DSE Assessor or by the Health & Safety Unit will consider the reported problems and any other DSE-related issues identified in discussions. This will include relevant aspects of the user's work and how they use the workstation for DSE and other tasks. An objective judgement will be made on how well the workstation meets the 'workstation minimum requirements', the physical needs of the user to achieve recommended postures (for example being very tall, left-handed or with disabilities), and also their work needs (for example space for other work equipment and meetings). The assessment will include advice and simple changes for immediate improvements where possible.

Advice, immediate improvements, planned remedial actions, and recommendations will be recorded on or with the assessment form, with clear reasons if necessary, and reported to the Line Manager or FOO/Director. Agreed actions will be clearly assigned and timescales and priorities given if necessary. The DSE Assessor and Health & Safety Unit will review progress and the need for any additional actions with the DSE user and Line Manager and keep records on or with the assessment form.

Referral to the University Occupational Health Service 

Where the DSE user has reported health or medical problems that may be adversely affected by their DSE workstation or work, they may need to be referred to the University Occupational Health and Wellbeing Service (OHWS). Referral is normally requested by Human Resources by FOOs/Directors or Line Managers, or by the Health & Safety Unit. The DSE user can seek confidential advice from the OHWS if they wish. The OHWS will carry out any medical assessment required and arrange referral to the University's Medical Adviser if necessary. They will then make recommendations if necessary.

Review of the workstation assessment 

Assessments will be reviewed to monitor progress and effectiveness of remedial actions; when there are significant changes to the work or workstation, or if there are reports of problems.  Assessments may also be recommended in arrangements for managed returns to work after prolonged sickness absence. DSE Assessors are recommended to offer reviews with DSE users from time to time, for example in Faculty/Directorate meetings and if they are involved in workplace inspections. They should also if possible have a brief review before a DSE user visits their optician for an eye and eyesight test, in order to identify any immediate improvements or topics for discussion with the optician.  Assessments will be reviewed annually if there have been no interim reviews.

Monitoring of workstation assessments 

The University's arrangements for monitoring of health and safety management in Faculties/Directorates will include periodic sampling of completed DSE assessments. 

Arrangements for DSE eye and eyesight tests and spectacles 

Entitlement to eye and eyesight tests 

DSE users are entitled, on request, to a full eye and eyesight test carried out by an optometrist (optician) of their choice near to their home or normal place of work. Users are entitled to further tests:

  • at regular intervals as specified by the optician on the eye and eyesight test form
  • if experiencing visual difficulties which may reasonably be considered to be caused by the DSE work
  • every five years in the event that the above two options are inapplicable

Time off for eye and eyesight tests 

DSE users who request it will be given reasonable time off to attend an appointment but may be asked to provide evidence of their appointment. For routine DSE eye and eyesight tests, notice of at least one week before the appointment must be given to the user's line manager. This requirement shall not apply in the case of appointments requested by users suffering visual difficulties likely to be related to DSE work.

Eye and eyesight test form 

DSE users must obtain an eye and eyesight test form and take it with them to their appointment and ask the optician to complete and sign the form. The form requires the optician to confirm that they have carried out the eye and eyesight test and to confirm their recommendation, if any, for spectacles for DSE use.

Payment for eye and eyesight tests and special corrective appliances 

DSE users will pay the optician the full charges for the eye and eyesight test and any spectacles prescribed.  'Normal' corrective appliances, i.e. spectacles for general use are at the user's own expense. Contact lenses are at the user's own expense.

Where users need special corrective appliances for their DSE work the University's liability for costs is restricted to payment for the cost of a basic pair (i.e. of a type and quality adequate for the user's work).  Users may choose more costly spectacles, for example designer frames or lenses with optional treatments not necessary for the work.

The University will reimburse up to the current University-agreed maximum contribution for each eye and eyesight test and for spectacles prescribed for DSE work on conditions that:

  • the employee is a DSE user, as defined in the DSE Code of Practice;
  • the test and any DSE spectacles have been obtained with the knowledge of the University and following procedures laid down in the Code.

Users must send the completed eye and eyesight test form and receipts to their Line Manager or FOO/Director, keeping a copy for themselves. The Line Manager/FOO/Director then signs the form and sends it with the receipts to the Finance Office for reimbursement to the user from Faculty/Office budgets. Photocopies should be retained by the user and the Faculty/Office budget holder. Reimbursements towards the cost of the eye and eyesight test and any spectacles prescribed for DSE will not be made by the University unless a completed form is received.

The current maximum reimbursements are:

  • £25 maximum for each eye and eyesight test
  • £55 maximum for single vision spectacles prescribed solely for DSE use
  • £75 maximum for bifocal/multifocal spectacles for general use, incorporating a special prescription for DSE use.
  • £75 maximum for bifocal/multifocal spectacles prescribed solely for DSE use

These arrangements will be reviewed annually.

Care of special corrective appliances 

The user is personally responsible for the safe-keeping of any special spectacles obtained for their DSE work. Repair and replacement will be the user's own responsibility.

Responsibilities under this Code of Practice 

Faculty Operating Officers and Directors of Offices will: 

  • appoint a member of staff as DSE Assessor to carry out DSE workstation assessments, and ensure they have the appropriate training, time and other resources to carry out their duties.
  • notify the University Health & Safety Unit of the name and location of the DSE Assessor so that training can be arranged for them.
  • ensure that the DSE Assessor is introduced during inductions for new staff classed as users, and also for staff transferred to the Faculty/Office or existing staff who become users; also ensure that the DSE Assessor is introduced to any operators (agency and self-employed workers) working for the Faculty/Office.
  • ensure that users and operators receive health and safety information and training provided by the University.
  • ensure that users and operators are included in the arrangements for DSE workstation assessment (note: there is no specific legal obligation to assess workstations used exclusively by students).
  • ensure that any faults found by assessments are investigated and actions taken to rectify them as soon as possible, giving priority to users/operators identified as suffering from pain or discomfort associated with their DSE workstation or work, and ensure that the user/operator is kept informed of these actions.
  • ensure that the University Health & Safety Unit or University Occupational Health and Wellbeing Service are notified when DSE users report health or medical problems that may be adversely affected by the DSE workstation or work, so that these may be investigated.
  • ensure that all workstations used by users/operators meet the minimum workstation requirements.
  • ensure that users/operators are able to have changes of activity or to take breaks from DSE work.
  • ensure that DSE users who request it are given time off to attend eye and eyesight tests and are provided with the relevant form to take to their appointment.
  • reimburse DSE users, from Faculty/Office budgets, to the agreed University maximum for DSE eye and eyesight tests and spectacles if prescribed specifically for DSE use.
  • ensure that assessment findings are taken into account in relocation planning in order to resolve existing problems where possible and prevent introduction of further issues.

DSE Assessors will: 

  • complete training provided by the University Health & Safety Unit.
  • meet DSE users during new staff inductions (and equivalent briefings for operators), or when transferred or existing staff become users.
  • provide or direct DSE users/operators to information provided by the University on the health effects of DSE work, recommended best practice for work and workstations, and the University's arrangements for DSE workstation assessments.
  • provide or direct users to the University's arrangements for eye and eyesight tests and provision of spectacles if prescribed specifically for DSE use.
  • direct DSE users/operators to the DSE workstation assessment online training and associated links for completion of the self-assessment of their DSE workstation, giving the user/operator's own views of the suitability and comfort of the workstation for their DSE and other work.
  • refer DSE users/operators to the Health & Safety Unit if they have reported pain or discomfort associated with their workstation in their self-assessment.
  • in particular, inform their FOO/Director of any reports made by DSE users/operators of health or medical problems that may be adversely affected by the DSE workstation or work.
  • carry out formal assessments of all DSE users' and operators' workstations where problems with the workstation are reported in the self-assessment.
  • record results of assessments and report these to the FOO or Director, together with recommendations for remedial actions.
  • record progress on provision of information to DSE users/operators, completion of assessments, and actions taken or recommended to reduce risks;
  • review assessments when significant changes are made (for example, new equipment, users or work patterns) or if complaints are received from DSE users/operators.
  • review assessments regularly and at least annually to ensure any changes and problems have not been overlooked.
  • provide or direct DSE users to the University Health & Safety web pages for the eye and eyesight test form before they visit their optician for the test.  If time permits, identify with the user possible shortcomings in the workstation or arrangements that may be relevant for discussion with the optician.
  • keep or monitor that copies are kept of the completed eye and eyesight test form signed by the optician and FOO/Director.
  • liaise with the University Health & Safety Unit for advice on assessments and any problems discovered.

DSE users are expected to: 

  • familiarise themselves, by completing the University's online training, with information provided by the University on the health effects of DSE work, recommended best practice for work and workstations, and with the University's arrangements for assessments and eye and eyesight tests.
  • use equipment provided in accordance with the information and training given.
  • where possible, make adjustments to workstation layout to reduce health risks.
  • where possible, arrange their own workload to give breaks from DSE work.
  • report any pain or discomfort associated with their DSE workstation or work, and any other problems with their workstation, to their line manager and to the DSE Assessor, either in the assessment process or as problems arise.  DSE users can seek confidential advice from the Occupational Health and Wellbeing Service if they wish. [Users should note that, with their permission, relevant information will be shared in order to make appropriate improvements to reduce risk to their health and safety]
  • follow the University's arrangements for requested eye and eyesight tests, and for purchase of spectacles if prescribed for DSE use, and take care of any spectacles obtained for their DSE work.

The University Health & Safety Unit will: 

  • advise and assist with the provision of health and safety training of DSE users.
  • provide training for DSE Assessors on workstation assessment.
  • make available the information and forms referred to in this Code, either directly or through the University Health and Safety web pages.
  • annually review implementation of this Code and make recommendations for amendments.
  • liaise with Faculty Operating Officers and Directors of Offices and DSE Assessors on implementation of this Code of Practice
  • provide advice to FOOs/Directors, DSE Assessors, Occupational Health Service and Human Resources on health and safety issues arising from work with DSE.
  • carry out formal workstation assessments where notified of DSE users reporting pain or discomfort associated with their DSE workstation or work.
  • liaise with the University Occupational Health Service, and with the Faculty Operating Officer/Director of Office, DSE Assessor and Human Resources as necessary, where health or medical problems have been notified.
  • with the DSE user's permission, liaise and share relevant information with the University Occupational Health and Wellbeing Service, Human Resources, the Faculty Operating Officer/Director of Office, Line Manager and DSE Assessor in order to make appropriate improvements to reduce the risk to users' health and safety.

The University Occupational Health and Wellbeing Service will: 

  • carry out medical assessments where requested for DSE users reporting health or medical problems that may be adversely affected by their DSE workstation or work.
  • provide DSE users with confidential advice on health or medical problems.
  • identify and provide advice on ergonomic issues associated with the DSE workstation or assessment.
  • liaise with the University Health and Safety Unit, and with the Faculty Operating Officer/Director of Office, DSE Assessor and Human Resources where health or medical problems have been notified.
  • refer users to the University's Medical Adviser as appropriate.

Human Resources Office will: 

  • liaise with the University Health and Safety Unit to provide new staff with DSE user information, including health effects of DSE work, recommended best practice for work and workstations, and the University's arrangements for workstation assessments and eye and eyesight tests.
  • liaise with the University Occupational Health and Wellbeing Service, Faculty Operating Officer/Director of Directorate/Office, University Health and Safety Unit, and the University's Medical Adviser as necessary where health or medical problems have been notified.

Human Resources - Staff Development will: 

  • make information available on the University's arrangements for IT software training for DSE users.

Procurement and Business Services will: 

  • seek advice from the University Health & Safety Unit on DSE workstation minimum requirements in relation to office furniture and IT equipment when drawing up tenders for preferred suppliers.

Information and Library Services will: 

  • seek advice from the University Health & Safety Unit on DSE workstation minimum requirements in relation to IT equipment.
  • advise and assist Faculties/Offices in sourcing suitable suppliers.

Original - May 2012

Review - May 2014

Updated - April 2015

Reviewed – April 2016