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Healthy working with computers

Many people at the University use computers and other display screen equipment (DSE) for a significant part of their working day. National surveys have found that a substantial proportion of DSE workers report aches, pains or eye discomfort. Aches and pains affecting the hands and arms (called upper limb disorders (ULDs)), are relatively common and can include a range of medical conditions such as Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). This is usually caused by prolonged use of the keyboard and mouse coupled with unsatisfactory workstation layout and/or poor keyboard or mouse technique. Most of these conditions do not indicate any serious ill health, but it makes sense to avoid them as far as possible. Often minor alterations to the layout or working practices can prevent or reduce these health affects, particularly if the issues are addressed early.

The University policy on DSE is available in Safety Code of Practice 13.

What is the University doing to ensure your health is protected?

Training and self-assessment

All staff and eligible postgraduate research students* who regularly use computer workstations for more than an hour in their working day must undertake an online training and self-assessment module on how to reduce any health risks associated with poor workstation design or working practices. This also ensures compliance with the Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992. To do this, the University uses an on line training package called Workstation Plus, provided by Cardinus. This training and assessment should be completed at least every 3 years, or if there are significant changes to your computer workstation set-up. Workstation Plus will prompt users to make adjustments to their workstation or working practices. Where necessary a local DSE Assessor may provide further advice.

Eye and eyesight test

Any member of staff and eligible postgraduate research students who uses a computer for more than an hour in their normal working day can request to have an eye test carried out by an optician, paid for by their School or Service. Where prescription spectacles are required specifically for computer use the University will contribute £55 towards the purchase of glasses. Further details are available in Safety Code of Practice 13. A copy of the eye test claim form, which must be signed by your line manager or supervisor before your optician's appointment is available.

What about work at home or away from the office?

If the computer equipment that you use at home or away from the office is supplied by the University, or you have a formal or contractual arrangements to work at home, a workstation assessment must be carried out. These assessments should be completed using the Workstation Plus software. If you work at home on an informal and occasional basis, it is also recommended that where possible, your personal home computer equipment is set up to similar standards as that of your work equipment, to prevent you developing any health problems. This is the responsibility of the DSE user, not the University.

Are tablets and mobile phones included in the training or assessment?

Currently there is no specific HSE guidance or requirements for tablets or mobile phone use, however research indicates that extensive use can cause health problems, in particular neck problems. Safety Code of Practice 13 provides some guidance on safe use for work purposes.

Don't ignore the symptoms

If your arms, shoulders, wrists or hands start aching/tingling, take a break and then reorganise your work to give yourself more breaks in the future. Reorganise your workstation to ensure that your equipment is correctly set up for you. If symptoms persist or keep occurring try the self-help sections in the Cardinus workstation assessment package. If you cannot resolve these issues yourself then you should contact your DSE assessor in the first instance (see section on DSE assessors below). In more complex cases a referral to the University Occupational Health Service may be required.

General guidance is available in the University's Good DSE practice leaflet.

Guidance on how to adjust some of the most common computer chairs available at the University is available here:

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What about students, visitors etc.?

Postgraduate research students who are in receipt of a stipend and who have been provided with a computer by their School are included in the definition of computer user and must receive training and assessment.

Undergraduate students, visitors to the University, contractors and other postgraduate research students are not legally required to have a DSE assessment, however they are encouraged to adjust their workstation and follow the principles set out in Safety Code of Practice 13 and the good practice leaflet.

Using the Cardinus Workstation Plus online system

All identified computer users will be requested by email to complete the Cardinus Workstation Plus online training module, assessment and test. The email will contain a link to the system, alternatively to access the system cut and paste this link into your browser and use your University IT username and password to log in:

https://openathens.auth.reading.ac.uk/cardinus/saml2/idp/SSOService.php?spentityid=cardinus-work

After completing each module, you will be able to view your own results. The aim of the online process is that you will be able to resolve any issues yourself by following the guidance offered by Workstation Plus. For example, this may be simple adjustments to your chair or the position of your mouse, keyboard or monitor, or recognising that you need to take more short breaks away from your desk. You will then be asked by the system to confirm that you have resolved any issues. Until all issues have been resolved, you will continue to get automatic reminders from the Cardinus System.

DSE Assessors

If you have been unable to resolve all the issues yourself, your local DSE Assessor will be able to access your results and help with resolving any outstanding items. This may vary from providing further advice and helping you make adjustments, to making recommendations to your manager/supervisor about a need for alternative equipment or chairs, desks or document holders.

Click here for the list of DSE Assessors to find out who the assessor is for your School/Department. If there is no assessor listed, please contact your Health and Safety Co-ordinator or alternatively Health & Safety Services.

DSE assessors can access the Cardinus administration system (PACE) for the online Workstation Plus system by clicking here.

Note : All DSE assessors must attend both DSE assessor training modules (Part 1- Cardinus Software and DSE assessment Training and Part 2 - Work Station Ergonomics).

Where there are significant health issues associated with or potentially made worse by workstation use, users must be referred by their manager/supervisor to Occupational Health. The Occupational Health referral form is available by clicking here.

DSE assessors are responsible for checking that all users in their area have completed a workstation assessment, training and test and that the issues that are highlighted by these assessments are dealt with and all remedial actions signed off. Where computer users have not completed the training/test/assessment or issues have not been resolved, this should be brought to the manager/supervisor's attention by the DSE Assessor.

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