Display screen equipment (DSE)

Many of us spend most of our working day at a computer or other display screen equipment (DSE) workstations. Aches and pains through prolonged use of DSE are very common, and if allowed to continue can lead to permanent harm. A few simple adjustments can make you more comfortable and prevent ill health.

The University is required by law to ensure that staff who use computers are trained in their safe use and have their workstation assessed for risk to their health. Staff are also required by law and under the University’s Health and Safety Policy to cooperate with this process by completing the online course and self-assessment.

DSE online course and assessment

Staff need to complete the University’s online computer safety course. It will take you about 30 minutes to complete the course and the quiz at the end.

Once you have done the course you need to complete a DSE self assessment form (.doc) and pass it to your DSE facilitatorDSE facilitatorDSE facilitator.

Safe use of DSE

Common causes of discomfort

Not taking sufficient breaks from DSE work

Sitting in the same position for hours is bound to lead to aches and pains. Taking short (5–10 minute) breaks from DSE work will help you to work more efficiently and reduce the risk of harm.

Essex Sport  have created this 5 minute video showing a range of chair stretch and mobility exercises that you can do at your desk to keep you active whilst taking a break.

Sitting too low

Unsurprisingly people adjust their seat so that their feet are flat on the floor, but for many people this means their arms are too low for the keyboard, resulting in hunched shoulders and leading to neck and shoulder pain. Raise your chair so that your lower arm is level with the middle row of keys with a 90 degree angle at the elbow. Keep your wrists straight and don’t rest your arms or wrists on the desk while using the keyboard. If you can’t rest your feet comfortably on the floor you need a foot rest.

Discomfort from using the mouse

People often suffer from pain in the arm, shoulder or hand they use to hold the mouse. This may be because they stretch their arm to reach the mouse or grip the mouse tightly. Place the mouse close to you, so that it can be used with a relaxed arm and straight wrist. It can help to support your arm lightly on the desk surface. If you still find using the mouse awkward, you could try a different shaped or sized one, or another device such as a trackball. A mini keyboard (ie one that doesn’t have the number pad on the right-hand side) can also be useful, as it will allow you to bring the mouse closer to you.

Headaches and blurred vision

This is often caused by prolonged use of the computer. Glare on the screen, bright areas (eg windows) in the field of view or a dirty or unclear screen can also lead to eye strain. So take regular breaks, use blinds to shield windows and keep your screen clear. Also, as we get older our eyesight gets worse. You are likely to notice this most when working on the computer. If you use the computer regularly as part of your work you can have an eye test paid for by the University. We will also pay for spectacles if needed for DSE use.


If you are pregnant you will need to review your DSE assessment to incorporate the need for more posture related issues. Find out more about risk assessment for pregnancy.


DSE at home

Hybrid working

Staff members that split their working time between the workplace and home can be defined as ‘hybrid workers’. Hybrid working involves using a computer or laptop at a workstation, the workstations are located on-campus and at home. Not all roles will be compatible with a hybrid working model although other flexible working arrangements are available for consideration. There are useful resources available on the Staff Directory to help you understand the university approach to hybrid working. If you have agreed with your manager to use DSE at home for work, the DSE Policy applies and you are required to complete or update a DSE Self-assessment. 

Managing DSE

If you or your department participate in the Smart Working At Essex (SWAE) programme please refer to the SWAE specific advice on the Staff Directory.

Working with display screen equipment (DSE) presents risks that need to be addressed and managed as part of day-to-day business. 

What to do if a staff member has highlighted an issue on their DSE Self-Assessment:

Where a DSE adjustment is outside the staff member’s control, Managers are to take action to ensure it is addressed, such as requesting support from the departments DSE Facilitator and / or seeking advice on ergonomic adjustments and ergonomic DSE items from Workplace Health, Safety and Wellbeing. 

Where staff members report health problems associated with the use of DSE, which continue after adjustments has been taken, and / or staff are absent due to DSE related work; managers are to refer the staff member to Occupational Health. 

DSE for Hybrid Working

Managers can refer to the information found within the below reference guide if they are considering a staff members request to safely work from home and to support staff members that do so. The processes listed within the guide will be reviewed periodically to align with changes in process and services as they develop:

Portable Appliance Testing for Hybrid Working

When due, Portable Appliance Testing for electrical DSE equipment used at home must be undertaken. Staff members will need to return electrical items to the office / Campus ready for the date of PAT.

Electrical Safety for Hybrid Working

DSE Users are required to regularly check that university owned DSE electrical items (particularly cables) are free from damage before use. A simple visual check each day can help to highlight any damage. Ensure the wall power socket is switched off before checking cables. Damaged electrical equipment should not be used and returned to the university for replacement. 

To prevent the overload of electrical sockets; keep the number of electrical DSE items used to a minimum when working from home and switch off and unplug electrical items when they are not being used. Avoid charging electrical items overnight. Try to keep your workstation paper free and ensure drinks and fluids are kept away from power sources and electrical items.

Smart Working At Essex (SWAE) programme

If you or your department participate in the Smart Working At Essex (SWAE) programme, please refer to the SWAE specific DSE Assessment advice on the Staff Directory.  The DSE Policy applies to the SWAE programme however, there are specific documents that have been prepared to support SWAE. 

Advice for students

There is no requirement in law for students to complete a DSE assessment. However, you should still follow the good practice outlined in the safe use of DSE guidance sheet (.pdf) and the using a computer leaflet (.pdf) to avoid aches and pains. See also our guidance for pregnant students.

About DSE facilitators

DSE facilitators are staff who have been appointed by your department to help ensure that any actions arising from your DSE self-assessment are taken. Workplace Health, Safety and Wellbeing (WHSW) runs DSE facilitator courses. If you need to attend a course, contact WHSW.

Also see

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Workplace Health, Safety and Wellbeing
Telephone: 01206 872944