Despite the misconception that staring at a screen for too long will damage your eyes and eyesight, employers still have a duty of care towards employees when using display screen equipment. One way to do this is to provide eye tests for employees, as defined in the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations and published by Health and Safety Executive.
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations came into effect in 1993 to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of employees using display screen equipment which covers a broad range of factors. Staring at display screen equipment for lengthy periods without breaks can be visually taxing and tiring to the eyes, as well as other health-related issues that might arise, such as headaches, stress, and fatigue.
Read our guide on how to work safely with DSE.
What is display screen equipment (DSE)?
Display screen equipment (DSE) are devices or equipment that have an alphanumeric or graphic display screen and includes display screens, laptops, PC’s, touch screens, and other similar devices.
Apart from the obvious DSE equipment in an office or homeworking environment, it is often necessary to assess what might be considered DSE and also if its use forms a significant part of a user’s work and the risks that it presents.
To protect employee health, safety and wellbeing, employers are required by law to conduct DSE workstation assessments, provide employees with the necessary training and guidance, reduce any health risks DSE may cause employees, and provide employees with an eye test if requested.
Employees include full-time, and part-time workers, temporary and permanent workers, and others engaged in work such as contractors using display screen equipment provided in the workplace controlled by the employer.
Read our guide on why DSE assessments are important.
What effects can working with DSEs have on your eyes?
Although there is no evidence to prove that using DSE can damage your eyes or eyesight or worsen pre-existing eye conditions, it can have an acute effect on comfort and employee wellbeing.
Temporary eye fatigue (also known as Computer Vision Syndrome) is a common consequence of DSE use.
In some individuals, this condition can be characterised by:
- Sore, dry eyes.
- Eye strain.
- Sluggish thoughts or difficulty concentrating.
- Blurred or double vision.
Eye fatigue or difficulty focusing can cause users to adopt poor postures as they work, causing discomfort in other parts of the body, such as the neck, shoulders, and back. Employees with pre-existing eye conditions may become more aware of them due to eye fatigue or difficulty focusing on characters, icons, and images.
Applying good ergonomic principles to enable a comfortable workplace is why it’s essential for employees to have DSE use eye tests and for employers to undertake DSE risk assessments.
Eye tests for employees – do employers have to pay?
A common DSE health and safety question employees have is: “Do employers have to pay for eye tests?”
According to Health and Safety England (HSE), employers are legally obligated to provide eye tests for employees that are DSE users if they ask for one and also pay for the eye tests.
To qualify for a DSE eye test, employees must be defined as a user by the employer which typically means they work for at least one hour per day in front of a screen and rely on DSE to undertake their job.
A DSE eye test should include a complete eye and eyesight test by a professional – either a doctor or optometrist – and should also include a vision test and a physical examination of your eye.
Eye tests for employees – how can employees arrange them
Depending on organisational policies, arrangements for employee DSE eye tests may vary.
Some employers may prefer to arrange them in-house with a selected optician and pay for them directly. Alternatively, employers may allow employees to arrange their own eye tests with a trusted provider, such as a high street optician, and reimburse them for the associated costs later. The tests should relate specifically to DSE use and establish if corrective appliances, spectacles might be required.
Opticians recommend that DSE eye tests occur regularly to ensure clear vision and good health is achieved along with ensuring comfort while at work.
Some organisations may list eye tests for employees as a workplace benefit despite being required by law for DSE use and as the test will also typically cover other eye health-related tests.
DSE glasses – does my employer have to pay for my glasses?
Employers are only required to pay for DSE glasses if they are specifically needed for an employee to complete work at a DSE, such as for the specific intermediate distance the work screen is viewed at work.
If a standard prescription is required, an employer does not have to pay for employee glasses.
Do I need DSE training?
Employers have a legal obligation to ensure employee health, wellbeing, and safety in the workplace and during any work-related activities.
This includes providing employees with the training required to ensure the safe use of display screen equipment in the office and during remote work.
This training should include:
- How to adjust chairs and workspace furniture.
- Adopting a good working posture.
- How to report any health problems or risks, potential and current.
- How to best arrange desk space to reduce the risk of injury.
- Education on why employees should take regular breaks from DSE and change activity.
- How to adjust equipment and light levels to avoid glare and reflections.
- Findings from the workstation assessment.
- Arrangements for the provision of eye tests and spectacles.
Learn more about Praxis42’s DSE training course and how it can help demonstrate compliance with health and safety legislation and good ergonomic practices which improves wellbeing.
How to take care of your eyes
Using DSE may be a core part of an employee’s duties, and there are steps workers can take to reduce the risk of adverse health impacts and improve wellbeing.
While employees should be trained and their work equipment and workstations competently assessed, there are practical tips workers can follow to protect their wellbeing and eye health while using DSE at work or at home:
- Follow the 20/20/20 rule – every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Stay hydrated to reduce the risk of headaches and dry eyes.
- Limit screen time and take frequent breaks or change of activity that require no focus.
- Set an alarm as a reminder of when to take a break.
- Reduce screen brightness.
- Adjust workspace lighting if possible to ensure it is even and adequately lit.
- Ensure all employees are aware of eye test and spectacle arrangements.
- Report discomfort to their managers.
- Complete workstation assessments and follow the recommendations and training provided.
Find out more about how Praxis42 can support your business with health and safety training for employees