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Technical Information Article

Display screen equipment (VDU's) and office furniture

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It is 23 years since the Health and Safety - Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations came into force.There are still considerable number of organisations who are either unaware of the existence of these regulations or choose to ignore them. Most organisations partly comply with these regulations by only undertaking very minimal risk assessments, which in their view show that everything is acceptable. Small proportion of organisations fully complies and exceeds the requirements of these regulations and consequently reaps the benefits of more productive healthier and happier workforce.

Recap on the Regulations

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 (as amended in 2002) are part of a series of six, which implement the European Health and Safety Directives. The other regulations in the series, which also came into force on the same date, deal with the provision and use of work equipment, the workplace, manual handling and personal protective equipment. The Health and Safety - Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992, which implement the European Directive (90/270/EEC) on the Display Screen Equipment, came into force on 1 January 1993. The intended broad aim of these regulations were to improve the health and safety of VDU work environment for workers whose jobs involve a significant use of VDU's - in offices, newspapers, control rooms, dealer rooms, factories

The key importance of these regulations was that they required an ergonomic approach to VDU task and workstation design. Ergonomics is the science of adapting the environment to meet the needs of the individual and the task to be done. If this approach is combined with appropriate training and information for VDU users, compliance with these regulations should reduce the risks associated with VDU work. The action required for reducing risks will often be straightforward and should undoubtedly increase performance and productivity as well as improving workers' health and safety.

Summary of regulations

Regulation 1 defines the terms display screen equipment, user, operator, and workstation.

Regulation 2 requires employers to analyse users' workstations for risks (this assessment should be reviewed when necessary) and to reduce risks identified in the assessments.

Regulation 3 requires employers to ensure that users' and operators' workstations including seating (chairs) and workstations (desks) including all other equipment at the workstation meet the requirements as outlined in the schedule.

Regulation 4 requires employers to design users’ daily work routine in such a way that their workload at the display screen equipment is reduced by either changes of activity or periodic breaks.

Regulation 5 requires employers to provide users, who request it, with a sight test as defined in the 1989 Opticians Act; and to provide those users whose vision need to be corrected for the VDU work with the appropriate spectacles.

Regulation 6 requires employers to provide health and safety training for users.

Regulation 7 requires employers to provide operators and users with information on all aspects of health and safety relating to their workstations, and on measures taken to comply with the regulations.

The schedule to the regulations sets out minimum requirements for workstations and the equipment within them including the chair and the desk or the worksurface. Workstations must comply with the specified requirements to the extent that:

  • the components concerned are present
  • health, safety and welfare will be secured
  • the inherent requirements of the task make compliance appropriate

Why should employers comply with these regulations?

Under these regulations managers will be held personally responsible for compliance. Non-compliance, if discovered, can result in personal fines and in extreme cases could result in imprisonment. If there has been a personal injury, the organisation has to pay compensation. The fear of being caught out by the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) or local authority environmental inspectors or being sued by an employee should not be the driving force behind compliance with these regulations. If there are risks associated with VDU work, the elimination or reduction of these not only improves workers' health and safety but also improves display screen armefficiency and productivity and hence profitability. For instance if a VDU worker has difficulty in seeing the screen clearly, unless their vision is corrected they are likely to suffer from eye strain and headaches, consequently they will be working inefficiently and are likely to make errors and take time off work. None of which can be profitable for the organisation. The same thing is true for users' comfort.

Employers should not see these regulations as another set of obstacles but as a means of improving the productivity, efficiency and health of their workforce. Complying with these regulations does not have to cost a great deal of money The majority of solutions would not have to involve any expenditure as new equipment or furniture. In most cases the solution could be as simple as reorganisation of the workstation (based on an ergonomics approach) and training of the workforce so that they would know how to minimise the effects of any of the risks associated with VDU work. By knowing (and actually doing it) how to adjust their chairs, screens and keyboards correctly to suit their work surface, and how to organise their workplace they themselves will reduce or eliminate the possible risks. Training plays as great a role as having the appropriate equipment in the avoidance of repetitive strain injuries (RSI), musculoskeletal problems, stress and fatigue.

The Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) guidance document on the Display Screen Equipment Regulations state that standards will provide specifications for new equipment, they may also be used as a yardstick for assessing the suitability of existing installations. The guidance notes go further by stating that workstations, which comply with the appropriate standards cited in the guidance, would meet, and in most cases exceed the relevant requirements of the Display Screen Regulations.

How do I find out more?

Contact: FIRA Ergonomics Department by emailing