Is it time for The HSE to review DSE assessments?

Founding Director of Visualise Training and Consultancy Dan Williams looks at Display Screen Equipment (DSE) assessments to see if they should go further than just posture and ergonomics.

Is it time for The HSE to review DSE assessments?

Traditionally, DSE assessments have focused on posture and ergonomics, however, accessibility for employees with visual impairment can easily be overlooked.

Employers have a legal obligation to protect their workforce from health risks when working with display screen equipment such as PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. The regulations apply only to employees who continuously use devices in their daily work schedule for a minimum of one hour at a time at a workstation.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the national regulator for workplace health and safety; its primary purpose is to prevent work-related death, injury, or ill health.

Cause not effect

An assessment, conducted by a trained assessor, is an integral part of determining potential hazards and risks for an employee. Incorrect use of DSE, poorly designed workstations or working environments with the wrong posture can lead to pain in the neck, shoulders, back, arms, wrists, and hands. Further long-term problems may arise and include fatigue and eye strain. However, the cause of symptoms may not always be immediately apparent…and could be surprising.

Employers must also ensure their workers are taking regular breaks or can move away from the screen to do alternative work.

So far, so good

One of the questions centres on vision and eye strain…but not nearly enough. Instead, the assessment focuses primarily on posture and ergonomics of the workstation, equipment, furniture, and work conditions and therefore, in getting the job done.

Attention is given to elements like pushing the display screen further back to create more room for the keyboard, hands, and wrists; this isn’t going to help someone who needs to lean forward to see the screen.

Providing a wrist rest or looking at good keyboard technique with relevant training to prevent issues such as hands bent up at the wrist, hitting the keys too hard and overstretching the fingers is all good.

Where are the detailed DSE questions about eyesight?

Unfortunately, the assessment for vision is limited to issues such as checking if the screen is free from glare and reflections, incorporating adjustments such as using dark characters on a light background and installing adjustable window coverings and suitable working blinds.

An assessor will ask about glasses but fail to go into further, crucial detail. Yet many with visual impairment will bend forward to peer at the screen leading to long-term problems.

Is it time for The HSE to review DSE assessments1

Visual impairment in the office

There are deeper questions which should be asked about vision such as:

  • Have you ever been diagnosed with an eye condition?
  • Have you had your eyes tested in the last 2 years and what were the results?
  • If you’ve not had a test, will you be making an appointment soon?
  • Do you have any difficulty reading small text/print, particular colours or contrasts or seeing your keyboard?
  • Do you experience regular headaches or migraines?
  • Are you affected by glare from artificial lighting or sunlight?
  • Do you experience difficulties navigating around the office?

The DSE assessment needs closer attention on eyesight because when an individual tries to self-correct or ignore problems, posture and ergonomic difficulties can often arise.

A Visual Impairment Workplace Assessment will identify the daily challenges encountered and offer practical, functional recommendations on how best to proceed.

Find out more at or email