Workstation assessments are a requirement for employers. If you employ members of staff who use workstations, you must be proactive in protecting them against risks that are associated with display screen equipment (DSE). DSE assessments are required for workers who use equipment, such as computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets, for an hour or more per day.

The requirements are outlined in the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations.

What is a workstation assessment?

A workstation assessment is a form of risk assessment which is conducted to ensure that employees can work safely with display equipment. The aim of the assessment is to identify potential risks, which can then be addressed to protect workers.

A DSE assessment should cover:

  • The entire workstation, including office furniture and display equipment
  • Special requirements related to the employee, for example, disabilities
  • The nature of the job

DSE assessments should be completed in the following scenarios:

  • Employers set up a new workstation or relocate to new premises
  • A new employee starts work
  • Changes are made to a workstation
  • An employee or workstation user makes a complaint or raises concerns about their workstation or equipment.

Employers must adhere to guidelines, including paying for eye tests for workstation users on request and paying for glasses in cases where employees require them to use the screen. If they need glasses to view a screen at a set distance for work, for example, the employer would cover the cost. If the user has a standard prescription and they have to wear glasses most of the time, the employee will cover the cost.

What does a workstation assessment include?

During a workstation assessment, the assessor will examine the workstation and evaluate its safety and suitability in relation to the individual user and the job they are doing. It is important to ensure that assessments are personalised to cater to different requirements and demands. The workstation should enable the user to complete tasks safely and efficiently.

To carry out effective assessments, the assessor should be aware of the user’s job, any special requirements they have in terms of their health or mobility and any concerns they have about the environment or the equipment they use.

Why do employers need to complete workstation assessments?

Employers have a legal responsibility to adhere to guidelines and policies that promote safe workplaces and reduce the risk of injuries and illnesses. If you employ workers who use display equipment for an hour or more per day, you will need to complete workstation assessments. It is important to note that DSE assessments should cover office-based employees as well as remote workers.

If you comply with DSE assessment guidelines, you can reduce the risk of employee illness and absence and avoid penalties and legal issues. Providing safe workstations and protecting employees can also help to improve productivity and boost employee morale and well-being.

Data from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggests that self-reported symptoms are prevalent in DSE users. Almost 60% experience eye discomfort, and over 50% report headaches. Nearly 40% of users also have neck and/or back pain (source).

How does a workstation assessment benefit the business?

Workstation assessments are beneficial for employers and employees. Here are some key benefits for the business:

  • Reduced risk of sickness absences
  • Lower risk of illnesses and injuries, including headaches, neck, shoulder and back pain and eye discomfort
  • Increased productivity, which boosts performance
  • Improved team morale and employee well-being

In the UK, almost 150 million working days were lost to illness in 2021. This equates to 4.6 days per worker. Workstation assessments are an effective tool for reducing the risk of illness, which in turn lowers the risk of staff absence and increases output (source).

How do you implement regular workstation assessments?

There are two main options to consider if you employ workers who use display equipment. You can carry out assessments in-house or use an external agency. If you choose to manage DSE assessments in-house, you can appoint and train a dedicated assessor or use software and online systems to encourage self-assessment and reporting. If you choose to work with an outside agency, an assessor will visit your premises and conduct the assessment for you.

You should outline your strategy in your health and safety policy.

If you offer your employees the opportunity to conduct independent workstation assessments, it’s beneficial to ensure that the results are checked by a qualified assessor. If an employee raises issues or concerns, the assessor should provide feedback and make sure that the problems are rectified or resolved.

The HSE provides a useful workstation assessment checklist, which is available here.

How often do businesses need to complete a workstation assessment?

Workstation assessments should be completed for new users, and they should also be provided if a new workstation is set up. Assessments are also required if a user reports problems, such as back pain or eye discomfort, or there are changes to an existing workstation.

Tips to reduce issues related to display equipment

To reduce the risk of symptoms linked to using display equipment, employers should follow these guidelines:

  • Carry out regular workstation assessments
  • Respond to employee concerns promptly
  • Recommend regular breaks
  • Use break-monitoring software
  • Provide eye tests for employees who request one
  • Provide glasses for users who need them to utilise display equipment at work
  • Test lighting to make sure it is optimal for display equipment use
  • Modify routines if people spend long periods at their desks

Conclusion

Workstation assessments are risk assessments which are designed to protect employees who use display equipment. The aim is to reduce the risk of illnesses and injuries by providing safe workplaces. Employers who employ workers that use display equipment for an hour or more per day are required to undertake DSE assessments. Assessments can be done in-house or by external assessors and they should be completed for every new user.