How many of us are staring at that glowing SCREEN day in and day out?

Since the introduction of office computers in the 1980s, more and more of the workforce are now unable to function without the use of these units at work, home and in our personal lives.

DISPLAY SCREEN EQUIPMENT (DSE)

Display Screen Equipment (DSE) is a device or equipment that has an alphanumeric or graphic display screen, regardless of the display process involved; it includes both conventional display screens and those used in emerging technologies such as laptops, touch-screens and other similar devices.

Do you use this type of device/equipment?

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

Surveys have found that a high proportion of DSE workers report aches, pains or eye discomfort. These aches and pains are sometimes called upper limb disorders (ULDs), which can include a range of medical conditions such as RSI. Most of these conditions do not indicate any serious ill health, but it makes sense to avoid them as far as possible.

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 aim to protect the health of people who work with DSE. The Regulations were introduced because DSE has become one of the most common type of work equipment.

That doesn't mean that DSE work is risky – it isn't. ULDs can be avoided if users follow effective practice, set up their workstations properly and take breaks during prolonged use. By just taking a few simple precautions, work with DSE can be more comfortable and productive.

As an Optician I see a large proportion of office workers coming in, complaining of eye strain, glare visual blur and/ or neck ache.

Most companies now offer their staff FREE annual eye exams and some go on to offer discounts towards spectacles, be it just for VDU use or otherwise.

When I see these patients who use DSEs regularly, I not only carry out an eye examination, but also check their DSE usage i.e. how long are they at a screen, what screens are they using, how far are the screens from them, can they actually view the font comfortably etc....

DSE CHECKLIST

So, we have decided to list a few pointers for DSE users to consider when at a DSE workstation.

1. How far is your screen from you? 

Measure, using your arms, how far you sit from your screen.

The laptop screen should sit roughly where your wrists are when they are outstretched on the table (approx 50cm) from your face.  

The top of the desk top monitor should be just at eye level and sit about a 'punch' or a 'poke' (arm stretched forward with fist in a punch or fingers outstretched) distance from you (60-80cm).  Any further away than this distance, you would only crane your neck forward to view the screen and any closer, you would only be causing your eyes to work harder (accommodate) to keep things in focus.

2. Screen brightness

Ensure that you are not having eye strain due to glare.  Lots of people suffer from migraines and eye strain caused by brightness and glare issues from screen and artificial lighting. The light source in a good office should mimic daylight and florescent lighting should be box covered.  Good  quality monitors now come with anti-glare screens that help reduce brightness and reflections from bright light sources shining on it that cause us to automatically frown when viewing the screen.  

3. Have you got the right glasses on?

Most people under 40 years of age may not need reading glasses to view a DSE screen.  However, underlying eye muscle issues and current long sightedness issues may mean you are straining your eye muscles harder than you realise to focus at the text on the screen.  Having a regular eye examination should highlight and eliminate/ solve these issues be it with spectacles or exercises.

New COMPUTER lenses called Vista Mesh have been produced to help with glare issues.  These lenses have in-built layers in the lens to reduce light induced eye strain and headaches, making screen work and driving more comfortable for many.

4. How long are you at the screen?

Did you know, the recommended working time that you should spend staring at a screen should not be more than 40/45 minutes at a go?  There is no law at the moment regulating the amount of breaks you are entitled to, but generally we recommend mini-breaks from the screen (look away into the distance, perhaps out through a window..) every 40 minutes and get up and walk about to stretch limbs and rest eyes, once every 2 hours.

So, with these simple measures, you should be able to minimise discomfort and be more productive when working on DSEs.

A brief guide on Working with Display Screen Equipment has been published by Health and Safety Executive and can be downloaded for further reading.