Display screen equipment

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

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 musculoskeletal 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 terms 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 factors.

There are 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, 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.

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.