Headaches and tiredness may seem like normal symptoms of a long and stressful day at the office, but staring at a computer screen all day can cause eye strain and other health issues, which could lead to more staff sick days.

Introduced in 1992, the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations state that employees must be protected from any risks associated with using Display Screen Equipment (DSE). This blog post outlines what employers should be doing to ensure that they are meeting these regulations, which in turn can help to build a healthier and more productive workforce.

The law

According to the DSE regulations, if your employees use computer screens, laptops, touch screens and other similar devices on a regular basis, you must take certain steps to ensure that they are protected from any potential health problems that could occur. These include analysing their workstations to assess and reduce risks, offering information and training, and providing eye tests on request and specialist glasses if needed. You can read the regulations in full here to find out exactly what is required.

The signs to look out for

Although it might not sound very serious, eye strain can cause a lot of discomfort potentially affecting performance in the workplace, which can have an impact on your business. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says some workers may also experience fatigue, upper limb problems and backache, which are often experienced due to poorly designed workstations. 

It’s important to collaborate with your employees as they will help you to manage the potential health problems associated with DSE in the workplace. If you communicate with staff on a regular basis, they can make you aware of the symptoms outlined above so that any issues can be solved swiftly, potentially avoiding longer-term health problems. You can also work with your employees to ensure that the health and safety controls and policies you put in place are practical and workable for them. 

What can employers do?

Your employees should be having regular eye tests to ensure they maintain clear and comfortable vision, especially if they use computer screens on a regular basis. As an employer, you are obliged to provide eye tests if a DSE user requests one and a basic pair of frames and lenses if they are required. A report from the International Glaucoma Association (IGA) revealed that 18% of over 45s haven’t had an eye test in the last five years, or have never had one before; that’s despite the fact that optometrists recommend you should have one at least every two years. To support your employees’ eye health, you should make them aware of their entitlement and encourage them to get their eyes tested regularly.

It is also important to ensure that employees’ workstations are set up to suit each individual’s needs to try and limit any pain and discomfort, such as back or neck ache. Why not look at our blog on office ergonomics to see how you can boost employee performance through good office design.

To help towards the cost of maintaining optimum health, employers could consider introducing a health care cash plan. Employer paid cash plans from Sovereign Health Care help workers afford their everyday health care costs by giving them cash back towards eye tests, glasses, contact lenses, dental treatment, physiotherapy and much more.

Small steps

It goes without saying that your staff should also be taking regular breaks from their desks. If you don’t do so already, consider introducing a policy for regular short breaks throughout the working day. Encourage them to get out and about and to leave their smartphones in the office if at all possible!

Another small step you can take to support eye health is to check the brightness settings on all of the screens used in the office. Make sure they are comfortable to look at for each individual employee and reduce the amount of blue colours on the screens. The science behind this is that blue light has a short wavelength and is more associated with eye strain than longer wavelength hues such as orange and red.

You can also read our blog post on eye health for more tips on how you can help keep this vital part of the body in tip top condition.

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