Working With VDUs and Computers

Health and safety regulations which related specifically to the use of visual display units (VDUs) and computers in the workplace came into effect in January 1993 to implement an EU directive. The regulations apply to staff who habitually use VDUs as part of their day to day job, i.e. any display screen or monitor, usually forming part of a computer, that displays text, numbers and graphics.

What Are my Employer’s Obligations?

Employers must:

  • Analyse work stations and assess and reduce risks. This includes the equipment, furniture, the work environment, the job being done and any special needs required by staff.
  • Provide adjustable chairs and suitable lighting
  • Plan work so there are breaks or changes of activity away from the computer. The breaks are not required to be a specific length of time but the general advice is to provide more frequent, shorter ones as opposed to less, longer ones. Ideally, the operator should be allowed a certain amount of discretion as to when to take breaks away from the screen
  • On request, provide eye tests or spectacles if special ones are required. Employees can ask their employer to pay for eye tests and there is also a requirement to test at regular intervals
  • Provide health, safety and training information specific to the safe use of working with VDUs and computers

How Can I Help Myself?

Getting Comfortable
  • Adjust your chair and VDU to find the most comfortable position in which to work. As a rough guide, your forearms should be approximately horizontal and your eyes level with the top of the VDU.
  • Make sure you have enough desk space for documents and other equipment
  • Try different arrangements of keyboard, screen, documents and mouse to find what suits you best
  • Arrange your desk and VDU to avoid glare or bright reflections on screen. This will be easier if neither you nor the screen is directly facing windows or bright sunlight. Adjust curtains and blinds to prevent unwanted light and glare
  • Make sure there is sufficient space under your desk to move your legs freely and remove any obstacles that might prevent this
  • Avoid excess pressure from the edge of your seat on the backs of your knees and legs. For smaller people, a footrest might be helpful

Keying In

  • Adjust your keyboard so that you have a comfortable keying in posture. A space in front of the keyboard often helps for resting the hands and wrists in between typing
  • Try to keep wrists straight when typing. Type softly and don’t overstretch your fingers

Using a Mouse

  • Keep the mouse within easy reach so that it can be used with a straight wrist. Sit upright and close to the desk and move the keyboard out of the way if it is not being used.
  • Support your forearm on the desk and don’t grip the mouse too tightly
  • Rest your fingers on the buttons and press them gently

Reading The Screen

  • Adjust the brightness and contrast of the screen to suit the lighting conditions in the room
  • Make sure the screen surface is clean
  • In setting up software, choose text that is a suitable size for you to read and colours that are easy on the eye
  • Individual characters on the screen should be sharply focused and should not flicker or move. If they do, your VDU may need servicing or adjusting

Posture and Breaks

  • Do not sit in the same position for long periods and move around so that your posture is not rigid. However, avoid repeated stretching for things you need. Move the items you need closer to you
  • And remember to take breaks – short, frequent ones are best. You may not be entitled to lots of rest and relaxation breaks but your employer has to make adequate ‘breaks’ away from the screen available to you, e.g. photocopying or filing duties might be applicable. The general recommendation is a 5 to 10 minute break away from the screen for every hour you are sat in front of it

Health Problems Arising From Bad Working Practice at VDU Equipment

Incorrect use of VDUs can place people’s health at risk in a variety of ways. It can cause:

  • Eyesight problems and headaches caused by screen glare, straining to look at VDU screens for long periods and by monitors positioned too close or too far away
  • Increased levels of stress which can usually be attributed to an increased pace of work or being made to work in front of a VDU without a break for a longer period of unbroken time than is recommended
  • Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) which refers to aches, pains and disorders that can occur in the hands and arms which, although usually only temporary in nature, can evolve into an ongoing condition and can even be disabling

Take this advice on health and safety implications of using a VDU or computer at work to reduce the health problems that can arise from incorrect use.

Last Updated on 25 May 2021

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