Facebook Display screen equipment (DSE) health risks - Healthy Working Lives

Display screen equipment

Guidance to employers and employees on the Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations 1992

​This page gives guidance to employers and employees on the Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations 1992 and how to protect workers from the health risks associated with display screen equipment.

  1. Display screen equipment (DSE) health risks
  2. Reduce display screen equipment (DSE) risks
  3. Display screen equipment (DSE) legislation

1. Display screen equipment (DSE) health risks

Incorrect use of DSE or poorly designed workstations or work environments can lead to problems in

  • necks
  • shoulders
  • backs
  • arms
  • wrists and hands
  • as well as fatigue and eye strain.

The causes of health problems may not always be obvious but can often be categorised as

  • physical (musculoskeletal) problems
  • visual fatigue
  • mental stress.

Physical risks

The term musculo-skeletal disorders (MSDs) is used to describe a number of conditions such as carpal tunnel or tendonitis (including swelling - tenosynovitis).

These conditions are also often referred to as repetitive strain injuries (RSI). Other terminology include

  • work-related upper limb disorders (WRULDs)
  • overuse injuries
  • cumulative trauma disorder.

These are progressive conditions and, in most cases, have various factors that combine to result in the RSI. These can cause injury to the nerves, muscles and tendons in the fingers, hands, wrists, arms, elbows, shoulders, and neck, which if ignored, may lead to long-term damage.

They can be caused by two types of factor

  • Primary factors that can affect anybody, such as
  • a poor ergonomically set up workstation
  • long periods of work without adequate breaks
  • sustained overuse from too much repetitive movement
  • poor posture
  • excessive workload
  • some patterns of work
  • a cold working environment
  • vibration.

Secondary factors related to the individual that may make them more susceptible such as

  • age
  • intrinsic strength
  • general health (which may contribute to differing levels of tolerance to repetitive strain).

Women can suffer from pain or weakness in their wrists during pregnancy, usually in the later months caused by fluid retention during pregnancy putting more pressure on the carpal tunnel.

More information on health conditions affecting muscles bones and joints can be found on our health risks pages.

Go to our page on muscles, bones and joints

Visual fatigue

DSE work does not cause permanent damage to eyes, but such work can be visually demanding and long spells of DSE use can lead to tired eyes, discomfort, temporary short-sightedness and headaches. It can also make someone aware of eyesight problems they have not noticed before.

An employer has a duty to offer and pay for a specific DSE eye examination for workers using DSE if requested.

Mental stress

Stress makes muscles and soft tissues tense up, and when they tense up, they are more likely to be injured. Both physical and social stressors at work may contribute to this process.

Go to our mental health pages for more information.