6th September, 2022

What Is A DSE Assessment?

A DSE assessment is a type of risk assessment specific to the use of computers, laptops, tablets and other display screens at work. A DSE assessment is a legal requirement for most workplaces. In this blog post, we'll look at what DSE is and how to assess it.

What Is A DSE Assessment? header image

Most employers will need to carry out a DSE assessment, but what exactly is one? And what does it need to cover?

Let's start with finding out what DSE is - and then look at how we can assess it.

What is DSE?

DSE stands for Display Screen Equipment.

DSE doesn't just apply to computers, although this is the most common type of DSE used in the workplace.

Display Screen Equipment (DSE) is a device or equipment with a display screen and this often refers to a computer screen. However, DSE includes both conventional display screens and those used in emerging technologies such as laptops, touch screens and other similar devices.

In a work environment, desktop computers are traditionally looked at when considering DSE, but it is important to consider other display screens such as tablets, laptops and smartphones.

Display Screen Equipment is essentially any screen that displays information. It could be an alphanumeric or graphical display.

Examples of DSE

Types of DSE include:

What is a DSE assessment?

A DSE assessment is an assessment of risk from the way we use computers, laptops, tablets and other display screens at work.

A DSE assessment looks at how a screen is used and assesses the risks to the user. Like any risk assessment, the aim is to identify the hazards and assess the likelihood and severity of harm to those that may be affected. Then, take action to reduce the risk.

The assessment doesn't just cover the equipment. It should also look at how it's used, the user, the furniture, the seating, and the environment.

Assess each workstation and reduce the risks as low as is practical.

office workstations

If you have sat at a computer screen for a long time, you may already be familiar with some of the hazards. Poor posture or lack of movement throughout the day can lead to back pain. Staring at the screen for long lengths of time can give you headaches.

But it's not just computer screens that are a problem. Slouching over your phone, tablet or handheld device for even a short length of time can give you neck and upper back pain.

DSE assessments are required by law, thanks to a short set of regulations called the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations.

These regulations lay out some key requirements for employers surrounding the use of DSE, one of which is the need to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of workstations used in the workplace.

2.—(1) Every employer shall perform a suitable and sufficient analysis of those workstations which–

  1. (regardless of who has provided them) are used for the purposes of his undertaking by users; or
  2. have been provided by him and are used for the purposes of his undertaking by operators,

for the purpose of assessing the health and safety risks to which those persons are exposed in consequence of that use

Any workstation used by your business, regardless of who provides it, should be assessed. So DSE requirements apply to co-working spaces, remote working, temporary workplaces and your own offices.

Your DSE assessment should not just be considered a tick box exercise to comply with legal requirements. A thorough assessment can help combat ill-health and therefore improve health and productivity in the workforce.

When should a DSE assessment be carried out?

Like with any risk assessment, you should assess the task or activity before it starts.

A DSE user is any employee who habitually uses display screen equipment within their work. This doesn't just apply to people that work on computers full-time, but to anyone who regularly uses DSE. This would usually be someone who uses the DSE daily for an hour or more at a time.

“user” means an employee who habitually uses display screen equipment as a significant part of his normal work;

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations apply to workers who use DSE daily, for continuous periods of an hour or more. We describe these workers as 'DSE users'.

To protect the health of the people that fall into this classification as DSE users, you should do a DSE assessment.

What does a DSE assessment cover?

Problems are often caused by the way we use DSE - not the DSE itself. A screen won't give you back pain, but the way you sit at it could.

Computer workstations or equipment can be associated with neck, shoulder, back or arm pain, as well as with fatigue and eyestrain.

It's not just the display screen that needs to be assessed, everything involved with the use of the equipment should be considered.

using a laptop

Your DSE assessment should look at the whole workstation. The workstation includes the display screen equipment, the keyboard, the mouse, and even the furniture such as the desk and chair.

The assessment should also encompass the general environment and includes lighting, reflections, glare, temperature, humidity and noise. All of these elements can impact how the equipment is used, and the risks to users.

You can 40+ DSE risk factors and considerations in the DSE assessment form, created by H&S experts for use in your business.

When should a DSE assessment be reviewed?

The regulations tell you to do a DSE assessment, and also to review them. You should review your DSE assessment if:

(2) Any assessment made by an employer in pursuance of paragraph (1) shall be reviewed by him if–

  1. there is reason to suspect that it is no longer valid; or
  2. there has been a significant change in the matters to which it relates;

and where as a result of any such review changes to an assessment are required, the employer concerned shall make them. -- The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 - Analysis of workstations

A DSE assessment might become invalid if the law changes, it expires, or something indicates that it wasn't sufficient (for example, users are reporting problems).

If the equipment, the law, or the user changes, then a review is needed to assess how the changes impact the risk or the controls used.

You only need to update the DSE assessment if your review determines that changes are needed. For example, if you found that the existing chair isn't suitable, or the computer was positioned incorrectly.

Ready to carry out your DSE assessment? Use the DSE assessment form to create yours in minutes!

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This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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