Nearly everyone in the Department of Biology uses display screen equipment (DSE), such as a computer, as part of their normal everyday work. Normal, intermittent use of such equipment does not normally give rise to significant risks, but long periods of use, with poor lighting or bad posture can cause health problems. The University of York has adopted its Management Procedure for the use of Display Screen Equipment.
The biggest problems are typically associated with:
It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that none of these problems arise. It is the responsibility of the users to report any failures to meet the requirements to the appropriate person.
The University is required to establish which members of staff are classed as DSE 'Users', a term that is more technical than its normal usage. 'Users' are essentially staff who are reliant on visual DSE as a major tool to do their job and who accordingly spend a significant part of their working day entering and extracting information. Although there is no exact definition of what constitutes a 'User', there are a number of factors that you should be consider in deciding if you are a user or not. These include:
If you answer YES to all questions you are defined as a 'User'.
If you answer NO to most questions you are certainly not a 'User'
It is important that all 'Users' of Display Screen Equipment within the Department have their workstation assessed to ensure that their computer work will not cause health problems such musco-skeletal aches and strains, eye fatigue and mental stress. Problems of this kind can be overcome by good ergonomic design of equipment, furniture, the working environment and the tasks performed. The assessment process is designed to highlight such problems and take action to remove or at least reduce any identified risks.
Students are not classed as employees within the meaning of the Regulations. However, the Department will apply the key principles of the regulations in our provision of DSE to be used by students. There is no requirement to provide students with eye tests of any kind.
The following process is in place to assess workstations of computer (DSE) users:
Whilst DSE poses no threat to normal eyesight, a heightened awareness of visual problems may manifest itself within their use.
All members of staff who are designated 'users' of display screen equipment are entitled to an eye and eyesight test and contribution towards the purchase of special corrective appliances within the scheme agreed by the University, providing these are needed specifically for computer (or other DSE) work.
Eligible staff who wish to use the University eye check system need to complete a ' DSE Voucher Application form' which can be signed off by a departmental DSE assessor (Paul Waites or Michelle Scaife) or their line manager.
Completed forms are returned to the Service Administrator, Health, Safety & Security Department. A voucher will only be issued to eligible staff and must be taken to the 'University Opticians' ('Specsavers') when individuals go for their eye check, removing the need for any money to change hands. No reimbursements will be made for staff who decide to use other opticians.
A range of conditions of the arm, hand and shoulder areas linked to work activities are now described as work-related upper limb disorders. These range from temporary fatigue or soreness in the limb to chronic soft tissue disorders like peritendinitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. Upper limb disorders can occur as a result of a variety of causes, including work and social activities. The use of screen-based terminals may contribute to such a condition. Sitting in fixed positions for long periods, or awkward, rapid or repetitive movements of the head, body or arms can cause pains or discomfort in the neck, shoulders or arms. These symptoms usually disappear when work stops.
Poor workplace or job design or inappropriate keying techniques may put some keyboard users at risk of chronic upper limb disorders. Symptoms can include pain, swollen soft tissue, restricted joint movement, loss of function and permanent disability. In such cases the University will operate the normal procedures for dealing with staff who become incapable of carrying out work of a particular kind.
In most tasks natural breaks or pauses will occur as a consequence of the inherent organisation of the work and will help to prevent the onset of fatigue. The University policy is, wherever possible, to permit natural breaks or changes in patterns of activity as an integral part of the tasks to be performed. In some DSE work, for example those data entry tasks requiring continuous and sustained attention and concentration, together with high data entry rates, such natural breaks are less frequent In situations where this type of work cannot be organised in any other way, and where natural breaks in work do not occur, the introduction of rest pauses should help attention and concentration to be maintained.
Rest pauses should be arranged so that they are taken prior to the onset of fatigue, not as a recuperative period following onset of fatigue. Shorter, frequent pauses are more satisfactory than longer ones taken occasionally, e.g., a 5-10 minute break after 50-60 minutes is likely to be better than a 15 minute break every 2 hours. Breaks should, whenever possible, be taken in an environment where no DSE equipment is present. Users who work for long periods, for example on overtime, should be particularly aware of the need to take adequate breaks.
Laptops are not very ergonomic - it's not usually possible to use them in a good posture and they can cause you problems. You need to try to prevent:
Here are some suggestions for how to prevent these problems:
The first rule is – where possible don't use a laptop for long periods, use a desktop computer. You can arrange the desktop equipment much better so you can work with fewer postural problems, and you can see and adjust the screen much more clearly. If you do need to buy a laptop, look out for:
The above information is advice issued by Rachel Benedyk at the 'UCL Interaction Centre' following research on ergonomic effects of laptops on students
The following represents good practices for working safely at your computer workstation:
Standing workstations, allowing you to change between sitting and standing, are becoming increasingly popular in workplaces as a way of reducing long periods of sedentary postures.
The following outlines:
Benefits of a standing workstation
Provision of sit /stand workstations in the Department
Factors to consider when choosing a workstation
Types of sit / stand workstations
Comparison of sit / stand workstation options
Preparing for a standing workstation
Training and awareness
Guidance on correct set up for a sit / stand desk
Getting the most out of a sit /stand workstation