What Is a DSE Assessment & Why Should You Do One For Your Employees?

Hannah Watkins
Hannah Watkins|

Whilst COVID was the catalyst for home working back in March, the overall success of the experience means that many employers will be incorporating more flexible working into company practices well into the future.

Such significant change will undoubtedly have a knock-on effect on rules, regulations, and processes, which will need to be altered to better reflect new working practices. Which is why, over the last few months, you may have heard a lot more talk about “DSE workstation risk assessments”. But what are they? And do you need to do one for your employees?

Below, we cover everything you need to know about DSE assessments—from what they’re for to guidance on how to conduct them for your employees.

What is “DSE” and what is the purpose of a DSE assessment?

DSE stands for Display Screen Equipment, meaning any device with a display screen—and a DSE assessment is basically a risk assessment conducted for people who use any of these screens in their work, for an hour or more each day. 

For office-based companies, this will most commonly apply to computer and laptop use—but may incorporate other devices such as smartphones, touch screens, television screens and CCTV screens, too.

Fundamentally, the assessment aims to evaluate how the screen is used and identifies any possible risks in doing so—ultimately ensuring that employees have the equipment, facilities and guidance they need to work safely and effectively.

What does a DSE assessment cover?

Whilst DSE specifically refers to screens in its name, the assessment should evaluate an employee’s entire workstation. This includes things such as any peripherals (e.g. keyboard and mouse) and work furniture, such as desks and chairs—as well as the screens themselves. Not only that, it should also evaluate an employee’s general environment, including the lighting, temperature, humidity and noise levels in their workstation. All of these elements can impact how the equipment is used.

Why are DSE assessments important?

The number of UK employees reported to be working exclusively from home rose 8x between January and April 2020. And the overall success of the WFH experiment suggests that this is a trend that will continue long into the future—in fact, 86% of respondents in our Should we ditch the office? Survey told us that they’d want to work somewhere other than the office at least once a week post-pandemic.

However, employees’ home setups are often highly unsuited to long periods of work, and outside the office, issues can be harder to identify and rectify. Not only can this have a major impact on employees’ happiness and productivity, but can even cause significant long-term health conditions.

In fact, research by the UK Institute for Employment Studies indicates that up to 60% of employees in the UK are experiencing new neck, shoulder, and back pain since they have started working from home as a result of lockdown—which will only increase if problems aren’t resolved soon.

Are you struggling with new aches and pains since you started working from home? We’ve put together this comprehensive guide to maintaining good posture when working from home, to give you the best chance of staying nimble, long into the future. Check it out!

Is a DSE assessment a legal requirement?

Actually, UK Health and Safety laws require you to conduct a DSE workstation risk assessment for all workers, whether they’re office or home-based. 

It is particularly important with home workers, though, as you will not have set up their workstation for them and they will not be in the regulated office environment—so practical risks are likely to be higher.

Who should complete a DSE risk assessment?

These regulations apply to workers who use Display Screen Equipment daily, for an hour or more at a time.

When should you do a DSE assessment?

A DSE assessment should be carried out every time a new workstation is set up, when a new employee starts work or when there is a significant change made to an employee’s workstation.

This explains the surge in demand for DSE assessments over recent months—government guidance to “work from home if you can” has displaced millions of employees into brand new working environments. 

How do you carry out a DSE assessment?

Where workers are working from home on a temporary basis, you could simply ask them to complete an assessment checklist on their own. However, for longer-term or permanent home workers, the risks are greater and thus obligations on employers are more stringent. In these circumstances, you should ideally have someone conduct a full workstation assessment with each employee, either in person or remotely—or at least provide them with a virtual assessment tool, along with sufficient explanations and guidance on how to carry it out. 

You should not rely solely on the employee undertaking the assessment in those circumstances. The results of the assessment will need to be checked by someone trained in health and safety, to assess where assistance, correction, training or extra measures may be needed. In some cases, special equipment may also need to be provided depending on the results.

Can I conduct a DSE workstation risk assessment myself?

Absolutely. We’ve even created a handy checklist for you to get started, which can be downloaded here.

The easiest way to use it is to complete the checklist during video calls with each of your team members. Once you have completed an assessment with each of your team members, you should review the findings with them, diagnose any issues, and provide access to solutions and appropriate DSE training.

Before completing the process, it’s important to get up to speed with the legislation in the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992. More information can be found on the hse.gov.uk website.

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