Display Screen Equipment Regulations — not worth the pdf they are written on?
Or perhaps it’s more a Chicken and Egg conundrum; which comes first, the chicken or the egg — or the glass, or the bottle?
If the Employers are the Chicken, are they expediently ignoring the egg — the employee?
Happily, putting the cart before the horse? (we know — mixing metaphors — but keep up!) in terms of occupational health and safety.
You should be.
Essentially, we are asking: Are employers happy to wait for the problem to happen, to snowball and become worse instead of mitigating it?
Take, for example, screen fatigue/computer vision syndrome.
Currently, only 10% of employers are compliant with DSE regulations.
(Perhaps we have our answer?)
Display Screen Operators Occupational Health has been regulated since the 1993 UK DSE Regulations.
But even the Health and Safety Executive has had to acknowledge their regulations are completely ineffective and indeed they were “confirmed ineffective” by Meta Medical Research commissioned by Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
They were shocked by the results because, back then, what it said on the “tin” regarding Display Screen Equipment regulations, excluded operator-screen ergonomics and to this day, they continue to dismiss eye-strain as only a temporary visual anomaly that does no harm unless, of course, you carry-on regardless, ( which is most of us, let’s face it).
Suffering debilitating repetitive stress injuries / monocular adaptations, myopic and/or asthenopic disease regardless of current knowledge and the latest 2018/9 Regs.
There is a glaring absence of any practical policy, advice or guidance from the HSE about the screens themselves and about screen use and how it affects Display Screen Equipment (DSE) users/operators.
No wonder 90% of employers just pay lip service to the regulations with a basic “tick-box” approach to compliance.
They do the basics and leave it at that.
Display Screen Equipment is still what remains at the very heart of the workstation and yet it is the one thing that is glaringly absent from recommended basic ergonomic risk assessments.
Chairs, desks, lighting, etc, you name it, are all there in the regulations, but the screen, the “interface” which is the one thing most directly linked to operators occupational health is largely ignored.
There is little or nothing about screen settings or calibration which could mitigate the very real risk of repetitive stress injuries and Musculoskeletal Disorders.
There is a shed-load of other applicable regulations from the 1974 Work Act onwards related to work equipment operation, including some very specific ones, almost made for DSE operators that can help the hapless employee.
The 1998 PUWER Act (Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations) addresses the need for operator-equipment reasonable adjustment for the “ease and comfort of the operator” to prevent and/or mitigate repetitive stress injuries.
Computer Vision Syndrome/Screen Fatigue is a repetitive stress injury.
The Display Screen, as it has continued to evolve from a CRT TV in the corner of the lounge to LED flat screens everywhere, has continued to be compliant with the 1998 PUWER Act with an almost infinite range of “adjustments” to suit the “preferences of the viewer”, in particular colour and contrast that has a whole new meaning in the 21st Century, well beyond solely “accessibility for the perceived Disabled user operator”.
Microsoft incorporated system settings to adjust screen settings.
Though some have sadly been removed in Windows 10 adjustments remain available in the settings.
Optimise Visual Display — (This is for Windows users)
Optimise Visual Display Settings
Fine Tune Display Effects
You can also search for “text” in the Windows search box and you will find an option for the Clear Type Text Tuner.
This takes you through a series of screens that allow you to tweak your text settings so that you can at least subjectively get the “best” settings for the clarity of the text itself.
Though surprisingly, in Windows 10 you still can’t change text background colours easily without digging around in the registry using css for webpages or editing the registry manually.
But as a Windows 10 user, you can easily have a bespoke theme generated by our Display Screen Optimiser software, which is a colour contrast validation tool.
It can provide an individualised coloured background theme that you download and double click to activate. It sets your coloured background in Word and text files as well as Outlook.
So why is it that even the existing mitigation methods which have been around for a long time are missing from the recommendations as they have been available since pretty much the dawn of Windows?
Too complicated for the average user? ( Again ours is very simple, with step by step instructions, including images, no coding required!)
And that brings us back to the Chicken and Egg of which comes first — Disability or being Disabled by over-exposure?
Regulations are currently at the 2018 ISO 45001 “Work Exposure Limits” stage, in association with the 2018 WCAG 2.1 Accessibility Standards and UK Governments Accessibility Regulations, with a compliance deadline that was set for September 2020.
With COVID we are not sure if this date has been and gone and still, parties are not compliant, but what we do know is that WCAG3 have addressed potential issues which is promising.
Following on from ISO 45001, is BSI ISO 30071.1 DSE “Colour Contrast Calibration” companion regulation to “Colour Contrast Validation” in website design.
Again, the success will be in the enforcement by The Health and Safety Executive and the DSE operators becoming aware of their rights and the responsibilities of employers.
If you are a DSE operator, which if you are reading this post means you are — as in you are reading this online, through a digital display screen — well, this applies to you too.
Nigel Dupree is the Founder of SMART Foundation and ScreenRisk.
Subscribe to his newsletter to receive the latest news regarding Display Screen Equipment and accessibility information. As a way of thank you, he’ll send his White Paper that explains the history of asthenopia,( eye strain to you and me) and yes, even Dante suffered from it!