Belfast Telegraph

Working with Display Screen Equipment

By Siobhan Harding

Display screen equipment (DSE) means any alphanumeric or graphic display screen, regardless of the display process involved.

The term DSE therefore includes not only Visual Display Unit (VDU) screens, but other methods of displaying data, such as microfiche and CCTV screens.

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1992 protect the health and safety of employees using DSE. A DSE user is described by the Regulations as an employee who ‘habitually uses display screen equipment as a significant part of her/his work’. All employees are covered by the Regulations irrespective of whether they work full or part time or how long they have worked for the employer. Employees working at home are also covered.

DSE users must be provided with regular eyesight checks. The eyesight test should be carried out by a registered ophthalmic optician or a registered medical practitioner. The employer should pay for the test. Employers only have to pay for glasses if special ones are needed and normal ones cannot be used.

DSE workstations must meet certain requirements. The requirements are that:

  • the display screen must have well defined characters of adequate size. The image must be stable, and it should be easy to adjust the brightness and contrast. The screen should be easy to tilt and swivel and there should be no reflective glare
  • the keyboard should be separate from the screen. It should be tiltable, and there should be space in front of it
  • the work surface should have a low-reflecting surface and should give adequate space
  • the work chair should be stable and comfortable. The height of the seat should be adjustable. The seat back should be adjustable and footrests should be available
  • lighting should provide contrast between screen and background and prevent glare
  • positioning of the screen must be such that there is no reflection from, for example, a window.

All employers must provide DSE users, and employees who are about to become DSE users, with adequate health and safety training on the equipment's use. Whenever a workstation is going to be substantially changed by, for example, new equipment, the employer must provide health and safety training on its use.

There is no legal limit on how long an employee should work with a DSE but an employer must either give adequate breaks to an employee who is using DSE or ensure that they may work on other activities away from the screen. This is so that the employee does not have to spend the whole working day facing the screen.

The English Court of Appeal has held that an employer has a duty to intervene and alter work practices if necessary to prevent injury from, for example, use of a computer. The employer must not rely on an employee appreciating the risk of undesirable working practices and taking the initiative in changing these practices.

Further information on all aspects of health and safety at work is available from your local CAB or from the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland on their One-2-One Helpline 0800 0320 121 or by visiting their website at

Siobhan Harding is an Information and Policy Officer with Citizens Advice

Belfast Telegraph


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