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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?

Temporarily working from home during Coronavirus Pandemic

All staff undertaking temporarily working from home can apply the measures described in this practical guide to support healthy computer workstation use. It covers workstation setup and home adjustments, breaks, posture change, accessing equipment, how to access advice and support.

Training and self-assessment

All staff 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 Safety 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 Safety Plus will prompt users to make adjustments to their workstation or working practices. Where necessary a local DSE Assessor may provide further advice. Users can also refer to the Good DSE posture diagram to remind them of correct workstation configuration.

Eye and eyesight test

Any member of staff who use 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 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.

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 should complete the checklist here. Checklist for PhD Student Computer Workstations

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 Safety Plus online system

All staff will be requested by email to complete the Cardinus Healthy Working Plus online training module, assessment and test. The invitation email will contain a link to access your account on the Cardinus HW+ system.

DSE User Site

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.

DSE Assessors List

Your details for your School/Department can be found here DSE Assessors List If there is no assessor listed, please contact your Health and Safety Co-ordinator or alternatively Health & Safety Services.

DSE assessors can access their Cardinus assessor accounts from the link provided in the PACE invitation email, sent by H&S Services.

DSE Assessor Site

All DSE assessors must attend an online training covering DSE assessing and the operation of the Cardinus HW+ software. Please contact H&SS to arrange this. 

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.

Things to do now - DSE

Contact Health & Safety Services: