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Knowledge Hub Article

Published on 27th October, 2015
by Ergonomics Department

​How does office furniture comply with the display screen equipment (DSE)Regulations?

At a glance:

This articles looks a the DSE Regulations requirements for office furniture including Standards applicable to desking, minimum requirements for furniture, minimum requirements for chairs.

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.

The main standard mentioned in the HSE's guidance document is BS EN ISO 9241, which has 17 parts. These cover all aspects of visual display screen work including computer equipment, furniture, task, environment, layout, and software. Although this CEN/ISO standard is not directly linked to the directive, one of its main aims is to set minimum health, safety and comfort levels for users.

As this standard is not a product standard actual dimensional requirements and safety requirements can be found in product standards which are summarised below. In order to ensure that desks and chairs are suitable for the users, they should comply with the following standards:

Standards applicable to desking

  • BS EN 527-1:2011 Dimensions
  • BS EN 527-2:2014 Strength and Stability
  • BS 6396:2008 Cable Management
  • BS 3962-1:1980 Gloss Measurement
  • Standards applicable to chairs
  • BS EN 1335-1:2000 Dimensions
  • BS 5459-2:2000+A2:2008 Strength and Stability for 24-hour use for people weighing up to 150kg or
  • BS EN 1335-2 Safety requirements

Minimum requirements for furniture

There are a still a number of misunderstandings regarding the sizes and adjustability of desks and chairs to be used at VDU workstations. As a result of a clarification from the EC Directorate General and using the latest appropriate standards (BS EN ISO 9241-5:1999, BS EN 1335-1:2000 BS EN 527-1:2011) these should have been eliminated. So, as far as the minimum requirements of the regulations are concerned, the minimum dimensional and general requirements for VDU desks and chairs can be summarised as follows:

Minimum requirements for rectangular desks

  • Height 720 mm; (680 - 760 mm if adjustable)
  • Depth 800 mm
  • Length 1200 mm; (1600 mm preferred)

The desk does not have to be a rectangular shape, it can be any shape provided that the surface area is adequate for the task and the equipment and it is not less than 0.96 square meters. Sufficient legroom underneath (specified in BS EN 527-1 and BS EN ISO 9241-5).

If the desks/worksurfaces are to be used for tasks where people can alternate between sitting and standing, the minimum height adjustment range should be 660 to 1200mm (preferred range is 600 to 1300mm). The height adjustment range for standing only work surfaces should be at least between 900 and 1200mm.

Minimum requirements for chairs

Independent height and tilt adjustment of backrest is not a requirement'. The primary requirement is that is that user should be able to achieve a comfortable position. Other requirements are:

  • seat should adjust in height
  • backrest should adjust in height and tilt
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It should be remembered that these are only the minimum requirements and that there is no reason why caring employers should not aim to exceed these. Providing fully height adjustable desks and chairs with independent backrest height adjustment might be appropriate for specific uses provided that they meet the needs of the user and the task and that they further comply with relevant adjustability criteria. In fact BS EN ISO 9241-5 promotes the philosophy of alternating between sitting and standing which is much healthier and productive for the workers. Such worksurfaces should then adjust at least between 660 and 1200mm (600 to 1300mm preferred).

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