Computer Operator Safety
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 outlines a series of requirements that are applicable to most office environments. Some minor changes were made in 2002 to strengthen this legislation.
The regulations require employers to minimise the risks in VDU (Visual Display Unit) work by ensuring that workplaces and jobs are well designed.
The law applies to office or home working staff who use VDUs as a significant part of their normal work. The regulations set general objectives that employers have to meet.
Carry out a risk assessment of computer workstations
Employers need to look at:
- The computer workstation including equipment, furniture, and the work environment
- The job being done
- Any special needs of individual staff
It is always a good idea if employees take part in risk assessments, especially if they have health needs that should be taken into consideration.
Where risks are identified, the employer must take steps to reduce them.
Risk assessments can seem daunting but there are standard formats available that make the job a lot easier, for example, the BSS Health & Safety Manual, see also training videos from The Office Safety Company.
Ensure computer workstations meet minimum requirements
The main areas here are items such as adjustable chairs and suitable lighting but other areas include computer screens, keyboards, desks, chairs, the work environment and software.
Sitting comfortably with your forearms and wrists in a horizontal position will help to prevent you suffering injury. You should remember to adopt this position at all times but further protection can be afforded by the use of wrist mats and mouse mats.
Your work environment should be adequate for you in terms of heat, light and background noise levels.
Your monitor should be capable of being adjusted to tilt sufficiently, and be fitted with controls to adjust brightness and contrast to comfortable working levels. The screen should not flicker, and should be easy to read.
Any flickering should be controlled by the controls on your monitor or by an adjustment that can be made within the software programme you are using.
The screen should not be subjected to glare and reflection from other light sources. If this is the case, you should look at ways to exclude light, such as repositioning the computer. If this is not desirable, light exclusion can be achieved by using anti-glare screens. These are highly efficient and easy to fit.
The area below your desk should be free from clutter, and of sufficient size to permit you to move your legs freely.
In addition, foot rests can provide an essential level of support to the lumbar regions of the body.
Plan work so there are breaks or changes of activity
The regulations state the need for breaks or changes of activity although their timing is not specified.
The guidance on the regulations recommends that short and frequent breaks are better than longer, less frequent ones. Many companies leave this up to the discretion of the computer worker to decide for themselves.
On request the company should arrange eye tests, and provide spectacles if special ones are needed.
Employees covered by the regulations can ask their employer to provide and pay for a professional eye and eyesight test. There is also an entitlement to further tests at regular intervals; the optometrist doing the first test can recommend when the next should be.
If prescription glasses are needed to work on a computer terminal, the company is obliged to supply a pair which meet the basic needs.
If the employee wishes to have more costly frames or lenses, then most employers will usually pay for the cost of the basic pair of specs, with the employee paying the balance.
Provide health and safety training and information
Employers have to provide training, to make sure employees can use their VDU and workstation safely, and know how to make best use of it to avoid health problems, for example by adjusting the chair.
Information on all aspects of VDU health and safety including ways on reducing risks can be obtained from The Office Safety Company via computer safety video, computer safety cd and poster.
- Work with Display Screen Equipment: Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 as Amended by the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002 - Guidance on Regulations — Health and Safety Executive
- The Law on Vdus: an Easy Guide: Making Sure Your Office Complies with the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 (as Amended in 2002) (Guidance Booklet) — Health and Safety Executive
- It’s Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome! RSI Theory & Therapy for Computer Professionals — Suparna Damany, Jack Bellis
Disclaimer: The Office Safety Company have provided the ‘Quick Guides’ on the basis that the content and advice contained within these documents is to the best of our knowledge accurate at the time of publication. The Office Safety Company does not accept any liability for the accuracy of the information provided in the ‘Quick Guides’.