The importance of Visual Display Unit (VDU) assessments
Laptops and PCs have been a common piece of the modern workplace hardware for over 30 years. Depending on the particular setup, workers use them with a combination of keyboard, mouse/trackpad and screen. No matter how or what you use your PC for, there are hazards involved and legislative requirements for your employer to meet.
In the early 90s there were significant headlines and media reports over the health problems from poor use and overuse of PCs. Initial legislation was introduced in the UK and Ireland around this time, with the 2007 update currently applicable. The Safety, Health & Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 include a chapter on Display Screen Equipment, which is quite specific and direct in its requirements. The Health & Safety Authority also publishes a very thorough ‘Guide to’ the Display Screen Equipment chapter of the regulations.
Generally, the regulations apply to any visual display unit (VDU) or display screen equipment in use for continuous periods of more than 1 hour. There are exceptions to this, such as cash registers or workstations in drivers’ cabs.
There are six duties of an employer listed, but the most significant are to:
- Provide training to employees on use of workstations.
- Perform an analysis of the workstation in order to evaluate the safety and health conditions.
The training can usually be delivered in less than 30 minutes, and should include the general principles of ergonomics, how to correctly setup and adjust all items of the workstation (specifically the work chair), positioning of accessories and recommended breaks.
The analysis of the workstation must be completed by someone trained in ergonomics or display screen equipment assessments. The analysis reviews:
- the positioning and adjustment of the items that make up the workstation
- the suitability and condition of the equipment
- how the equipment should be best adjusted and situated for the individual, in regard their individual characteristics.
This assessment can be brief but should also include recommendations on changes the employee can make to their posture and position, in regard to their workstation.
The visual display unit assessment should be repeated if the employee transfers to a new workstation or if there is a significant change to the individual’s workstation.
Common issues identified during workstation assessments include:
- Prolonged working on a laptop, where the screen and keyboard cannot be adjusted to suit the user
- The chair is not correctly adjusted, or the adjustment mechanism is damaged
- Items stored under desks, not providing sufficient space for people’s legs
- Height not adjusted or raised to the correct level
Not only does a workstation assessment mean compliance with an employer’s legal obligations, it should also prevent associated health problems and lead to happier and more productive employees.
For more information on VDU/DSE assessments for your people, contact Michelle Lau (Health & Safety Team)