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What is DSE?

DSE (Display Screen Equipment) are devices or equipment that have an alphanumeric or graphic display screen and includes display screens, laptops, touch screens and other similar devices. Simply put they are almost everything we use and need to send and receive information in the modern world.

The HSE states that a very high proportion of workers using display screen equipment report aches and pains and eye discomfort. These afflictions can cause misery for the sufferers and can be responsible for lower productivity and high rates of absence. The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 aims to protect the health of people who work with DSE.

By law, the DSE Regulations 1992 require an employer to:

  • Undertake a DSE workstation assessment for “users” – that is those who use DSE as part of their daily work, continuously for an hour or more;
  • Minimise risks, including making sure workers take breaks from DSE work and do something different
  • Provide an eye and eyesight test if a worker requests one and provide suitable corrective appliances should a need be identified;
  • Provide training and information for employees
  • Re-evaluate the assessment when the user or DSE changes.

In April 2020, 46.6% of people in employment did some work at home. Of those who did some work from home, 86.0% did so as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. With many companies now having a large proportion of their workforce working from home, employees are having to adapt quickly to this change, raising potential issues of compliance with the DSE regulations. Appropriate DSE training has never been so important for people in employment.

 Incorrect use of Display Screen Equipment

Incorrect use of DSE or faultily designed workstations or work environments can result in a pain in the neck, shoulders, back, arms, wrists and hands, as well as fatigue and eye straining. The causes may not always be apparent. Actions to reduce risks include the right desk set up with appropriate seating, appropriate screen size and position, reducing glare from windows, and the provision of auxiliary aids such as document holders and foot stools.

Training and education can be provided in face to face sessions or more typically these days as part of a combined assessment and training online module. Advice on good posture; adjusting chairs and desks, for example; arranging desk space; screen adjustment and lighting; breaks and changes of activity should be included together with information on reporting problems.


The following tips may help users who use DSE as part of their daily work:

Get comfortable.

  • Forearms should be horizontal, and the user’s eyes should be the same height as the top of the screen.
  • Ensure there is enough desk space to make room for all documents or other equipment. A document holder could reduce avoid awkward neck and eye movements.
  • Arrange the desk and screen to prevent glare, or bright reflections. This is usually easy to achieve if the screen doesn’t directly face windows or bright lights.

Health and Safety

  • Alter curtains or blinds to avoid intrusive light.
  • Ensure there is space under the desk for free leg movement.
  • A stool to rest feet may benefit smaller users.

Well-designed workstations

  • A free area in front of the keyboard can assist in resting your hands and wrists when not typing.
  • Aim to ensure wrists are straight when keying.
  • Suitable keyboard technique is key – you can achieve this by maintaining a soft touch on the keys and not overstretching the fingers.

Using a mouse

  • Place the mouse within easy reach, so it can be moved with a straight wrist.
  • Position yourself upright and near the desk to prevent moving with the mouse arm stretched.
  • Place the keyboard out of the way if its use is not required
  • Use the desk to support the forearm, and don’t hold the mouse too tightly
  • Place fingers lightly on the keyboard buttons and do not press too hard

Reading the screen

  • Ensure characters on the screen are sharp, in focus and don’t flicker or move. If they do, the DSE may need servicing or adjusting.
  • Tailor the brightness and contrast controls on the screen to suit lighting conditions in the room.
  • Ensure the screen surface is clean.
  • During software set up, select text that is large enough to read comfortably.
  • Choose colours that are easy to read (avoid red text on a blue background, or vice versa).

Changes in activity

Splitting up long periods of DSE work helps prevent tiredness, eye strain, arm problems and backache. As an employer you must plan, so users can break up prolonged use of DSE with changes to their activity. Organised or prearranged rest breaks may sometimes be a solution.

The following may help users:

  • Stretch and change position.
  • 20/20/20 method- after 20 minutes of use, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds
  • Alter activity before users get tired, rather than to recover.
  • Short, frequent breaks are more beneficial than longer, infrequent ones.
  • Timing and length of changes in activity or breaks for DSE use is not set down in law and arrangements will vary depending on a particular situation but five to ten mins every hour is a good rule of thumb. Employers are not responsible for providing breaks for the self-employed.


These controls stated above will also reduce the DSE risks associated with laptops. Although, the following may also help reduce manual handling, fatigue and postural problems:

Consider potential risks from manual handling if users have to carry heavy equipment and papers.

Health and Safety

Whenever possible, users should use a docking station or firm surface and a full-sized keyboard and mouse.

The height and position of the laptops screen should be angled to ensure the user is sitting comfortably, and reflection is minimised (raiser blocks are commonly used to help with screen height).

More alterations in activity may be required if the user is not able to minimise the risks of prolonged use and awkward postures to suitable levels.

Some of the things you’ll learn with Shout Out Safety are quite straightforward; sitting at your desk correctly, resting your eyes and making sure you position your monitor so you’re not under any strain. There’s plenty of advice on other good habits that you’ll need to consider too.

About the Shout Out Safety Display Screen Equipment Training course

This course is in 4 sections which cover the following topics:

  • What is Display Screen Equipment?
  • Injuries associated with poor use of DSE
  • Best practice in using DSE
  • Eye problems associated with DSE and how to avoid them 
  • Using mobile and handheld DSE

There are 4 banks of questions which you will need to answer. Achieve the pass mark and you’ll be able to move onto the next section. 

display screen equipment

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