Health & Safety Department

Personal Computing

Guidance information on using computers at work.


The University policy on display screen equipment can be found in Section 3 Display screen equipment (DSE) in the Framework: Arrangements document.

Introduction to Display Screen Equipment

Display screen equipment, and particularly visual display units (VDUs), are a commonplace feature of the office environment. There are a number of hazards associated with the prolonged use of DSE and information on how to minimise these risks is outlined below. Display screen equipment and other relevant work equipment, including desks, chairs and other associated furniture can and should be adjusted to the most comfortable position for each individual user. In order to avoid discomfort from prolonged use of DSE equipment, users should :-

  • receive training in how to assess their workstation
  • assess their workstation
  • receive training in how to correctly use any software
  • raise any problems with their line manager in order that they may be resolved
  • make necessary adjustments to their workstation, and
  • adopt good working practices

All staff who work with DSE equipment must undertake the online training and risk assessment provided by Cardinus or use the paper version, see below.

The Screen

Display screens should have easily read characters, and should be stable, with no visible flicker or swim. Screens should swivel and tilt easily, and you should have control of brightness and contrast. The screen should be free from reflective glare. There is no evidence to suggest that display screens cause damage to the eyes or eyesight, or make existing eye defects worse. However, some people find reading from a VDU screen is tiring even when other precautions, such as preventing poor positioning with respect to overhead lighting and windows, resulting in glare, have been taken. If you are in any doubt about your eyesight you should have an eye test.

DSE Eye tests

University employees who are regular users of display screen equipment (DSE/VDU) should be made aware that, upon request, they will be provided with a DSE/VDU eye test.

Further guidance on obtaining an eye test is available below.

Work surface

Your work surface should be sufficiently large for a flexible arrangement of the components of your workstation, and should be of low reflectance. A suitable document holder should be provided, if you require one.

Standing desks

It is acknowledged that for many staff, sitting all day at a conventional desk is not beneficial to their posture. For some staff, a raised desk surface will be the most appropriate solution for this issue.

If, after a DSE risk assessment has been undertaken, a raised surface is recommended, the staff member should contact their local support (School Safety Adviser, Administrator etc.) to request this. There are a variety of options open to schools, including:

Sit-stand workstations – height adjustable PC stations placed on normal desks – for example

Standing desks – either manual or electronic – contact the Furniture Office

Higher static desks – where staff with laptops could move to when they feel the need to stand for short periods of time – contact the Furniture Office

Each school or department must decide themselves which type of surface to provide for their staff.

The Keyboard 

The keyboard should be separate from the screen and tiltable, for maximum operator control.

Common keyboard shortcuts

Using keyboard shortcuts can reduce your usage of a computer mouse and therefore help reduce the effects or likelihood of work-related discomfort.

Details of some common keyboard shortcuts for Windows programmes is available below with another list of common keyboard shortcuts when using Microsoft Access databases. Please note more shortcuts are available from the Help menu within Microsoft Access.


The height of your chair and the angle of the chairback need to be adjustable so that the whole design of the workstation is suited to the physique of the operator, so as to provide a comfortable working environment. A suitable footrest should be provided, if you request one.

Work pattern

There is no doubt that ergonomic and visual fatigue problems can be aggravated by long periods of work. A transfer to other activities for around 10 minutes in every hour is generally regarded as a good way of avoiding such problems. Flexibility in the work regime is the key, taking into account the requirements of both the individual operator and the work in hand.

Work Environment

Your work environment, in terms of space considerations, lighting, reflections and glare, noise, temperature and humidity, must be such that a comfortable workstation is provided, which is acceptable to you.

Training and Risk Assessment

Training and risk assessment should be carried out when a member of staff begins work at the University and then the risk assessment should be reviewed every two years.

A new risk assessment should also be carried out if there is a change in equipment or in location/set up or if you feel your equipment set up may be contributing to ill health.

Online training

The Health and Safety Department has purchased an online system encompassing DSE training and risk assessment from Cardinus. All users of DSE are encouraged to undertake this training and then complete a risk assessment. Full details, including user manuals, are available in our Training section of this website.

Cardinus information

However, not all Schools will be utilising this online system, please check with your local Cardinus Administrator or School Safety Adviser on which system to follow. However, schools must be able to demonstrate that they comply with the DSE Regulations if not using the Cardinus system.

Cardinus Administrators

School Safety Advisers

Paper based risk assessment:

There is also a paper based risk assessment available which staff can use if their school chooses not to use the online system above.

Workstation Assessments and concerns

General advice for employees

After completing the risk assessment, you should correct or arrange for correction of any issues which have been highlighted on the paper form or in the user action report (if using the Cardinus system).

A flow chart has been produced to highlight the route of contact for the Cardinus DSE training and risk assessment system.

Local assistance

Should an issue arise which you cannot resolve yourself, you should discuss this with your local Cardinus Administrator or DSE Assessor (who may be the same person) or School Safety Adviser.

Assistive hardware/Software

Information Services offer a service to support disabled staff with IT software or hardware. Please see their website for further information.

Furniture Office

Furniture issues should be directed at the Furniture Office. Please check your local procedure for contact with them.

Further assistance if required - external consultancy with associated costs

There may be occasions when it is appropriate to consult experts on ergonomics. This would be appropriate once all the above advice and guidance has been followed and any adjustments followed for a reasonable period of time but the staff member is still experiencing issues with their DSE set up.

There are many companies who provide this service on a commercial basis. One such local company is Posturite who have indicated that they will undertake a free telephone consultation, before moving on to a paid face to face assessment. 

Contacting the Occupational Health Service

After following the above advice and having implemented a trial of any adjustments as identified in the risk assessment, if there are continued outstanding health concerns the Occupational Health Service would encourage an initial visit to your own GP for assessment of your health, followed by contact with the Occupational Health Service for further assessment via self-referral or managerial referral.

Self-referral information

Managerial referral information

Or alternatively call the Occupational Health Unit.

Occupational Health Service

Contact details

Guidance leaflets / posters

Portable equipment (laptops)

The Occupational Health Service has published information on the use of portable display screen equipment. The OHS can be contacted for specific advice on the use of portable display screen equipment.

Other sources of guidance