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DSE Workstation Assessments

1. DSE-Workstation Risk Assessment. Key Features:

EXPERT

Thorough ergonomic DSE Workstation assessments performed by qualified and experienced Occupational Health Specialist Practitioners.

EFFECTIVE

Help you to avoid or alleviate discomfort, pain or even musculoskeletal injury caused to your employee by the work that they do.

COMPLIANT

A structured document workflow generates an audit trail of evidence that you have demonstrated your duty of care to identify and control for work related health, safety and welfare risks to your employee.

AGILE

Proven processes for effective remote assessments (e.g., for your homeworkers) as well as assessments at your site.

2. DSE-Workstation Risk Assessment.  Step by Step Guide:

Click on a step below to view more detail.

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 requires that for employees working on your premises or at home, using DSE daily and / or continuously for an hour or more (regardless of who provided the DSE) you must:

  • Provide; DSE, a working environment and a computer interface which meets minimum defined standards.  These standards are defined on the government’s Minimum Requirements for Workstations web page1.
  • Provide adequate health and safety training in the use of the DSE and whenever the DSE is substantially modified.
  • Have adequate procedures, including DSE Assessments, to identify health and safety risks and reduce them to the lowest extent reasonably practicable.
  • Plan your employee’s work activity to ensure they take adequate breaks or changes of activity.
  • Fund an eyesight test if requested or whenever visual difficulties are being caused by DSE work and provide corrective equipment where required specifically for DSE work.

You must conduct a DSE-Workstation Assessment for all employees defined by the Act when:

  • Introduced to a new DSE-Workstation set up (e.g., when a new employee starts work or at the commencement of homeworking).
  • An employee complains of discomfort or pain.

The assessment needs to be reviewed when:

  • Major changes are made to the equipment, furniture, work environment or software.
  • Your employee changes workstation (Work Wellness are currently seeking clarification from the HSE on the application of this requirement to hot desk employees who may be faced with a change to their workstation as often as every day).
  • The nature of work tasks change considerably.
  • It is thought that the controls in place may be causing other problems.
  • Your employee complaints of discomfort or pain.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) state that adequately trained employees can fill in the HSE’s DSE-Workstation Checklist themselves on condition that a trained assessor reviews the completed checklist; clears up any doubtful points, provides feedback to the employee and makes sure problems are put right.

The HSE defines adequate employee training to include:

  • the risks from DSE work and the controls you have put in place;
  • how to adjust furniture;
  • how to organise the workplace to avoid awkward or frequently repeated stretching movements;
  • how to clean the screen and mouse;
  • who to contact for help and to report problems or symptoms;
  • how to use the HSE’s DSE-Workstation Checklist if the employee is going to conduct their own assessment.

However, guidance from one employment lawyer is that relying on employee self-assessment with a trained assessor review risks failing the minimum requirement to adequately control health and safety risks under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, because it will allow instances where employees:

  • Do not conduct the self-assessment.  To control for this risk you can implement procedures to: document evidence of follow-up reminders to the employee to conduct the self-assessment and after two reminders without a response; arrange for a trained assessor to conduct the assessment.
  • Fail to identify a risk or fail to document and report it via the self assessment document.  In Work Wellness’ experience this is the rule rather than the exception.  An extreme example was a homeworker assessment where each box on the HSE Checklist had been ticked, they were shortly afterwards referred to us with a chronic musculoskeletal condition and we found that their living room / laptop configuration failed almost every standard defined by the Act.  To control for this risk you could implement procedures requiring employee self-assessments, particularly of homeworking arrangements, to be accompanied by photographic evidence prior to review by the trained assessor.

Meeting your minimum requirements is far more likely if you refer your employee for a Work Wellness DSE-Workstation Assessment conducted by a trained assessor.  The HSE define a trained assessor as someone who can:

  • identify which employees are covered by the Act;
  • assess workstation risks and put control measures in place;
  • provide employee training;
  • review employee self-assessments or checklists to identify any additional controls;
  • tackle problems the employee is unable to solve for themselves;
  • decide when additional information and help is needed, and where to go for it;
  • record significant findings according to the organisation’s applicable policies.
  • Record significant findings (If you have 5 or more employees you must maintain a record of all significant findings, the record should be simple and focused on controls).

You should refer your employee for a Work Wellness DSE-Workstation Assessment conducted by a trained assessor who is also an occupational health specialist practitioner if your employee has:

  • An injury.
  • A genetic or progressive musculoskeletal condition.
  • A physical, mental or neurodevelopmental condition causing heightened sensitivity to distractions, noise or certain lights around their workstation.

Referral decision treeFollow the flow chart to decide how to request a DSE-Workstation Risk Assessment.  Basically:

  • If any health information is likely to be declared or processed (which is likely if your employee has a long-term health condition) then request the assessment using two separate forms; the occupational health assessment referral form and the employee consent form.
  • If you are confident that no health information is likely to be declared or processed then request the assessment using a simplified work risk assessment referral form.

You complete the referral form, obtain your employee’s consent and email the form(s) back to us.

Returning the referral form in good time is crucial to the quality of the assessment:

The referral / consent form must be returned to Work Wellness at least 5 working days prior to the appointment, to allow sufficient time to:

  • Agree the calendar appointment with your employee.
  • Request and receive photographs from your employee. 
  • Research and prepare for the DSE-Workstation Risk Assessment.

Arranging the appointment:

We can arrange the DSE-Workstation Risk Assessment appointment directly with your employee.  We will provide them with candidate calendar slots, agree the slot most convenient to them, issue a calendar invite for the agreed slot and receive your employee’s acceptance of the invite.

Alternatively, you may choose to arrange the DSE-Workstation Risk Assessment appointment between Work Wellness and your employee, in which case we will offer you 3 candidate appointment slots to agree with your employee.  You may choose this option:

  • In order to retain overall control over the process (e.g., to minimise the risk of ’employee did not attend’).
  • For the first one or two referrals until you are comfortable with the process.

A DSE-Workstation Risk Assessment consultation will normally be conducted remotely via video conference and last for 60 minutes.

Employer’s site DSE-Workstation Risk Assessments can be conducted physically present or remotely.

Photographs.

Whoever arranges the DSE-Workstation Risk Assessment appointment should also request that your employee sends photos of their DSE-Workstation configuration to Work Wellness, to be with us at least 1 working day prior to the appointment.  Such photos should show:

  • The worksurface capturing the normal position of all equipment when in use.
  • Close ups of equipment (e.g., to assess the legibility of keyboard characters, the adjustment mechanisms available on the chair, desk, display screen, etc).
  • Normal working posture and body positioning (position of feet on the ground, alignment of eyes to display screen, distance from body to mouse and keyboard).
  • Wider working environment, checking for overloaded sockets, wiring and other trip hazards.
  • Day time / night time light sources.

We will prepare in advance of the DSE-Workstation Risk Assessment appointment by analysing the photographs for the information they do and do not provide about the DSE-Workstation configuration and where it might be necessary to focus time and attention during the assessment. 

Explain

The Work Wellness practitioner normally starts the DSE-Workstation Risk Assessment by explaining the next steps in the process and answering any questions from the employee. This is a key step in the process, where we establish a rapport, gain trust and encourage open and reliable disclosure of information.

Assess

The Work Wellness practitioner:

  • Establishes what your employee’s job involves and how they physically perform it, paying particular attention to any risk factors such as; posture, load, repetition, tools and the wider office environment such as glare, temperature, draughts and mobility / trip hazards.
  • Considers any complex needs, disabilities and / or mobility problems with the aim of enabling everybody, irrespective of their needs and disability, to succeed in their job.
  • Quickly assimilates and assesses many relevant features of the DSE-workstation and the wider working environment.

For homeworker / remote assessments the practitioner:

  • Will be asking your employee to be the observer.  Asking them to describe how they physically move to carry out their work and to describe any discomfort or pain they experience.  The practitioner is experienced in eliciting balanced and accurate feedback.  Evidence based questioning and non-judgemental listening helps avoid subconscious “response bias”.
  • Will also explore and assess feelings of isolation, opportunities for social interaction and the availability of help should the homeworker suffer an accident or illness.

Advise and Adjust

The Work Wellness practitioner will:

  • Make any necessary adjustments to the positioning of display screen equipment, chair, desk and office environment relative to the employee’s physical needs and shape.
  • Discuss and agree physical adjustments (e.g., to chair, display screen, keyboard/mouse, desk, lighting, ventilation, mobility and safety hazards, etc) to optimise the working environment relative to the employee’s body size, shape and mobility levels.
  • Ask “lateral” questions of homeworkers about other items of household furniture which could be used to configure a more comfortable and safer workspace.
  • Help ensure the employee knows how to make such future adjustments themselves to maintain their optimum working environment, particularly important where the employee is working in a flexible office environment.
  • Provide jargon free personalised advice on how to vary the work routine, frequency and duration of work breaks, posture and reasonable exercise regimes.
  • Confirm with the employee that they understand the advice and information provided to them.

After the assessment you will receive a DSE-Workstation Risk Assessment Report which:

  • Compares your employee’s equipment, their knowledge of how configure the equipment and their working environment to:
    • The needs of your employee.
    • The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) regulations2.
    • The Health and Safety Executive’s display screen equipment checklist3.
    • Latest good practice standards not yet adopted by regulation and the HSE.
  • Details any adjustments made by the practitioner and the advice provided to your employee.
  • Recommends the provision, replacement or modification of equipment and the wider office environment.

If you requested the DSE-Workstation Assessment as part of an Occupational Health Referral then:

  • The report may also recommend special / ergonomic equipment to help your employee better cope with long-term health condition(s). 
  • The Fitness for Work Assessment report may also include recommendations for  improving your employee’s musculoskeletal health, e.g., physiotherapy, exercise regimes, etc.

This type of information is likely to be sensitive so we follow General Medical Council guidelines to ensure confidentiality.  Further guidance can be found at the end of this link: Processing Employee Health Information.

The report should be a valuable source of information to help you decide how to manage your employee, their performance and the risks to their health and safety.  It might form the basis of an action plan agreed between you and your employee.  Further guidance can be found at the end of this link: Using Your Occupational Health Report.

3. DSE-Workstation Risk Assessment.  Step by Step Average Timeline:

Day -3
Identify referral reason
Step 1: You decide to refer
Day 0
Gather information
Step 2: You make the referral

Allow 3 working days to make the referral, it is normally a straightforward task to:

  • Collate and capture the information necessary to complete the referral form.
  • Obtain your employee's consent to the referral.
Day 8
Arrange appointment
Step 3: Work Wellness conduct the assessment
  • Within 2 working days of referral we will be in contact to arrange an appointment.  
  • We are very flexible, we can confirm the appointment slot in advance of receiving the referral forms, but we must receive the forms at least 5 working days prior to the appointment to allow time to:
    • Agree the calendar appointment with your employee.
    • Request and receive photos from your employee.
    • Research and prepare for the appointment.
Day 13
Write report
Step 4: Work Wellness report back to you
  • Within 3 working days of the assessment we aim to provide your employee with advance sight of the assessment report. 
  • We allow them 2 working days to respond with requests for corrections and / or deletion of any confidential information which they do not wish to be disclosed to you.
  • If they have not responded within 2 working days we issue a reminder and allow a further working day.  If we have still not received a response then we release the report to you.
  • If your employee requests changes to the report then we aim to release the report to you within a further 3 working days.  It is usually sooner but there are instances when changes are only agreed after some discussion.

4. DSE-Workstation Risk Assessment.  Why Invest:

Complete Solution 3dProtect. The costs of getting it wrong:

The 2019 Labour Force Survey found that 29% of lost working days are caused by work related musculoskeletal disorders.

A HSE sponsored survey of work related ill-health records maintained by GPs from 2005 to 2015, found that the majority suffered with back pain or disorders with the hand, wrist or arm and that the main cause was repetitive movement at work.

A separate survey of employees with musculoskeletal conditions found that more than two-thirds (68%) said their occupation was a contributing factor and a third (33%) said their employer was aware of their condition, but had failed to provide adequate support.  

A 2018 survey of homeworkers found that 58% received no guidance from their employer on how to set up a workstation to support healthy posture and over two thirds reported new pain since working from home.

This creates a risk of legal claims under regulations including the Equality Act (2010) and The Health and Safety Regulations (1992).  Successful claims in 2019 averaged £28,371 and the largest was £416,015.

  1. Minimum Requirements for Workstations.  legislation.gov.uk.  Web site.  Last checked 28/06/2021.[]
  2. The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992. Para. 2–3.[]
  3. Display screen equipment (DSE) workstation checklist.  Health and Safety Executive (HSE).  2013.[]