When you think of health and safety, professions like construction workers, working from heights or in a restaurant may all come to mind but how many times do you think about health and safety in the office? Health and safety affects all professions including office workers. In this article we are looking at how health and safety can affect office staff.
Working with display screen equipment (DSE)
DSE includes display screens, laptops, touch screens and other similar devices. Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 applies to anyone who uses DSE for a significant part of their normal work i.e. daily or for continuous periods of an hour or more.
What are the health risks with DSE?
Staff may experience eye strain, headaches, fatigue, upper limb problems and backache from overuse or improper use of DSE. These problems can also be experienced from poorly designed workstations or work environments.
In order to ensure that staff are protected against DSE issues:
- information and training need to be provided so staff are aware of the risks;
- workstations need to be checked to ensure they are setup correctly (desks and chairs are at the right height, positioning of the keyboard and mouse is the screen free from glare and reflections etc.). You may find the DSE workstation checklist helpful.
- eye and eyesight tests should be available on request.
Upper limb disorders (ULD)
ULDs affect the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves or other soft tissues and joints in the upper limbs such as the neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, hands and fingers. ULDs are better known as repetitive strain injuries (RSI) and are sometimes also called cumulative trauma disorder or occupational overuse syndrome. Management and control of the risks associated with work-related ULDs are covered by the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
Any type of work that involves someone using their arms to carry out tasks can lead to ULDs and this can be exacerbated when work is repetitive or sustained or excessive force is required or when carrying out tasks for long periods without suitable rest breaks. ULDs can also result from poor working environments.
Assessing the risk of ULDs
ULDs can be managed in the workplace by:
- looking at all the tasks involved in the day to day operation of your business and assessing the risks based on what can cause ULD. and
- changing the way work is carried out to prevent or help reduce risk;
The Health and Safety Executive provide an office risk assessment tool. It enables businesses to produce a tailored assessment by selecting the relevant hazards and thinking about how you control them. The online tool can be found at: http://records.hse.gov.uk/connect.ti/officeriskassess/view?objectId=23667.
Don’t forget risk assessment is a legal requirement, and if you employ five or more people you must record the significant findings of the assessment.