The importance of correct festive viewing

In an age where streaming services, digital downloads and catch-up tv reign supreme, it’s quite surprising that the Christmas Day tradition of congregating around the ‘box’ (let alone the same room) to watch live programming endures.

For most of us it’s as good a time as any to throw on those festive slippers, open the biscuits and get comfy on the sofa. Indeed, viewing comfort is everything. After all, there’s no use going through the drama of agreeing what to watch, only to find your sofa position compromised and the view obstructed by the Christmas tree.

This outlook on festive viewing should also be applied to the use of Display Screen Equipment (DSE) in the workplace. In fact, it’s a legal requirement for employers to protect their workers from the health risks associated with using DSE, such as PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones.

It’s also important to note that incorrect use of DSE or poorly designed workstations can lead to severe adverse effects including; pain, stress and visual discomfort, causing long term illness and time off work. It’s therefore imperative for employers to adopt practices for the correct use of DSE. For this reason we’ve put together some guidance on how best to use DSE this Christmas and beyond:

Workstation assessment

If workers use DSE as part of their normal work, continuously for an hour or more, employers must do a workstation assessment including; the whole workstation (including equipment, furniture and work conditions) and any special requirements of a member of staff, for example a user with a disability.

Breaks

There is no legal guidance about how long and how often breaks should be for DSE work. It depends on the kind of work you are doing. Take short breaks often rather than longer ones less often. Ideally, users should be able to choose when to take breaks and can even incorporate other tasks such as meetings or phone calls.

If there are no natural changes of activity in a job, employers should plan rest breaks. Breaks or changes of activity should allow users to get up from their workstations and move around, or at least stretch and change posture.

Eye test

As DSE work is visually demanding, it can make someone aware of eyesight problems they have not noticed before (including changes in eyesight that happen with age).

The law says employers must arrange an eye test for DSE users if they ask for one and provide glasses if an employee needs them only for DSE use. DSE work does not cause permanent damage to eyes but long spells can lead to tired eyes, temporary short-sightedness and headaches. Employees can help their eyes by checking the screen is well positioned and properly adjusted as well as making sure lighting conditions are suitable and taking regular breaks from screen work.

Training and information

Training should be about the risks in DSE work and how to avoid these by safe working practices. It should include:

  • good posture
  • adjusting chairs and other furniture
  • arranging desk space
  • adjusting screens and lighting to avoid reflections and glare
  • breaks and changes of activity
  • risk assessments
  • how to report problems

So if you’re looking to ensure your festive viewing is comfortable, RoSPA has a suite of risk assessment courses including DSE, which can provide an audit of your computer workstations, development of suitable policies and procedures and the training of computer users in correct working methods and posture. For more information call us on +44 (0)121 248 2233, email or visit our website.

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