Picture of an office to illustrate DSE assessment article

What is a DSE Assessment and when do you need one?

You’ve heard about DSE Assessments, and maybe have even had one done ‘to’ you. But do you really understand what is a DSE Assessment and when you need one?

What is DSE?

DSE is short for Display Screen Equipment. Display Screen Equipment includes (but is not limited to) devices like desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. DSE is not just a computer set up at a desk in an office environment, but extends across all situations where a screen is used (with some notable exceptions that you have to dig through the regulations to find).

What are the risks around using DSE?

It has long been recognised that using DSE for a prolonged period can give rise to some health problems. These can include musculoskeletal problems such as backache, pain in the neck, shoulders, arms, wrists and hands, eyestrain and fatigue.

Woman slumped working at laptop showing poor posture to illustrate DSE assessment articel

In the main, working with DSE is low risk and most DSE users will not experience these problems, however given the widespread use of DSE if only a small percentage of users develop problems that results in a significant number of people being harmed at work.

Such is the extent of DSE use, there are specific regulations that set out what employers must do to protect their workers from harm. These are the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations – more commonly known as the DSE Regulations.

What do the DSE Regulations say?

The DSE regulations place specific duties on employers. They must:

  • Identify DSE users
  • carry out DSE workstation assessments
  • take measure to reduce risks from using DSE, including measures such as breaks from work
  • provide eye-tests if a DSE user asks for one
  • provide information and training to users for the safe use of DSE

Managing the risks associated with using DSE follows the typical 5 steps to risk assessment process. A typical process would be to:

    Step 1 – identify your DSE users

    Step 2 – deliver DSE training to users and carry out an assessment using a checklist based approach

    Step 3 – review the checklists, identify any issues and problem areas

    Step 4 – put actions in place to address issues, making sure all actions have a named person responsible for ensuring the actions are completed

    Step 5 – monitor ill-health reports, sickness absences and complaints to identify if any problems are becoming apparent. Repeat steps 1 to 5 periodically.

Who is a DSE user?

Employers need to identify their DSE users. They include employees in the workplace, mobile or homebased, and self-employed workers or contracted workers who are working under the employers direction.

The DSE regulations define users as somebody who:

  1. normally uses DSE for continuous or near-continuous spells of an hour or more at a time; and
  2. uses DSE this way more or less daily; and
  3. has to transfer information quickly to or from the DSE.

As a rule of thumb, if somebody regularly uses a device with a screen to do their job, they can be classed as a DSE user.

What is a DSE Assessment?

A DSE Assessment look at the hazards and risks associated with using DSE in detail, so that the potential for harm is identified and minimised. That’s just a fancy way of saying it looks at how you are working, what your working set-up is like to spot and sort out any problems before they become an issue. The assessment will look at how the user is interacting with the DSE and the environment they are working in and will assess against the standards set in the schedule of minimum requirements for workstations set out in the DSE regs.

A typical workstation risk assessment will cover:

  • current workstation layout
  • keyboard
  • mouse and other equipment
  • screens
  • furniture
  • lighting and glare
  • software use and training
  • temperature and humidity of the working environment
  • noise
  • any other factors specific to your workplace

When do you need a DSE assessment?

DSE assessments must be carried out for users:

  • with a designated workspace
  • mobile workers
  • home workers
  • using hot-desks

DSE assessments should be carried out :

  • when a user has a new workstation set-up
  • when a new user starts work
  • if changes are made to existing workstation
  • if users complain of pain or discomfort.

Danum Business Solutions provides in-person and virtual DSE training and assessmentget in touch if you would like to chat about how we can help you.

When do employers have to provide eye-tests and glasses for DSE users?

Picture of a man getting an eye test to illustrate DSE assessment article

DSE work does not cause damage to eyes, but may make the user more aware of existing problems. The DSE regs say that employers must provide and pay for eye-tests for DSE users if they ask for it. If tests show that an employee needs glasses specifically for DSE work then the employer has to pay for those glasses. If no specific glasses are needed, and the DSE users ordinary lens prescription is suitable for DSE work, then the employer does not have to pay.

What DSE training do we need to give?

The DSE regs say that you must train all users. Typical areas to cover in DSE training are:

  • posture and correct seating position to minimise risk of musculoskeletal disorders
  • how to adjust chairs and other furniture provided by the employer
  • how to arrange the desk space for comfortable working
  • how to position and adjust screens and lighting to avoid glare
  • work routines, breaks and changes of activity
  • how to carry out DSE self-assessments, if necessary
  • how to use software and applications needed for the tasks
  • how to report any problems with DSE


A note about users of portable DSE

Portable DSE such as laptops, tablets and smartphones are used by many people and the use of these are covered by the DSE regs just as fixed workstations are. Employers can take steps to minimise risks associated with portable DSE even before they purchase the equipment. Portable DSE should be selected with the end user in mind, when looking at what to buy consider equipment that is lightweight, easy to use, as large a screen as practicable, has long battery life and has sufficient memory and speed to carry out the tasks it is needed for.

Laptop and smartphone used to illustrate DSE assessment articel

It is not practicable to carry out an assessment for every portable DSE user in every situation, so in these cases a better approach is to train DSE users to do their own assessments and set procedures in place so that issues can be raised and quickly dealt with.

So, what is the key message to take away?

Working with DSE is typically low risk, but as a large number of people use DSE there is always the change that somebody in your organisation may suffer ill-health effects from using DSE. Employers have a duty to identity their DSE users, give suitable training, carry out DSE assessments and put measures in place to minimise the risks associated with DSE use. This duty extends to users who are mobile or home based, as well as workplace based. DSE assessments look at a wide range of factors, including the hardware, software, equipment and working environment. DSE assessments don’t need to be complex or burdensome, and done correctly they are a useful tool for preventing common musculoskeletal problems, eyestrain and fatigue.

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