8. Display screen equipment (DSE) information

Guidance and information on setting up and working with a display screen.

It is the responsibility of your employer to:  

  • Analyse workstations to assess and reduce risks.
  • Make sure controls are in place.
  • Provide information and training.
  • Provide eye and eyesight tests on request, and special spectacles if needed.
  • Review the assessment when the user or DSE changes.

As an employee you must:

  • Follow the rules and safe system of work when using DSE.
  • Report problems about your health and the workplace.


The University have elected to carry out their responsibility by using the services of a company called Cardinus and generating risk assessments using their web-based facility.

If you wish to make use of this resource you can log in to Cardinus via this webpage:


If you have problems with accessing the system contact your local PACE administrator (David Hamilton) and we will arrange to send you an email invite.

For non-staff, we will assist where we can but alternate resources may need to be applied to, should any special equipment be necessary. There is an informatics Workstation assessment  DSE form which can be  found on the Risk Assessments page and used as a starting point to log concerns.

Pregnancy is a special case and additional support and a specific risk assessment is available. Please inform your line manager if you are having issues, or wish an assessment. University Health & Safety also have information on pregnancy, which you might find useful,

University DSE information is available from the Health & Safety department or via their website.


The remainder of the information on this page constitutes our attempts at providing information on DSE related issues and good practice.

[1] Employer/owner's responsibility

[2] User's responsibility

The University should provide users with the equipment necessary to do their work but it should be understood that if users carry out work on their own personal equipment then the University will only assist with issues where it has been agreed that the personal unit is integral to the work requirement.


(Extracts from HSE material)

A risk assessment should be done when a new workstation is set up, when a new user starts work, or when a substantial change is made to an existing workstation (or the way it is used). Assessments should be repeated if there is any reason to suspect they may no longer be valid - for example, if users start complaining of pain or discomfort.

The main risks that may arise in work with DSE are musculoskeletal disorders such as back pain or upper limb disorders (sometimes known as repetitive strain injury or RSI), visual fatigue, and mental stress. While the risks to individual users are often low, they can still be significant if good practice is not followed. The likelihood of experiencing these disorders is related mainly to the frequency, duration, intensity and pace of spells of continuous use of DSE, allied to other factors, such as the amount of discretion the person has over the extent and methods of display screen use. The combination of factors which give rise to risks makes it impossible to lay down hard-and-fast rules (for example based on set hours usage per day or week).  


Please talk to your line manager about any discomfort you are having in the workplace and efforts will be made to try to alleviate them (additional breaks, moving away from food odours which might exacerbate morning sickness, for instance) Long periods of standing during pregnancy can lead to swelling of the limbs and back ache. Make sure you have a seat available and if not, request one.


The University Health & Safety team have produced this short introduction to good posture and practice:

Seating positions image


Try to achieve a neutral posture as much as is practical. This is where your neck, upper and lower spline are in line and relaxed. Your hands should be in line with your forearms.

Things to be aware of:

When seated there is much more pressure on your spine than when standing, if leaning forward this increases even more.

Sitting properly during pregnancy is important, in order to relieve pressure on the abdomen. As your body shape changes you may have to make more adjustments to your chair, or if the seat pan is too small request a different type of chair. Be sure you are familiar with all the seat adjustments.Be prepared to change the position of your chair as the pregnancy progresses and your body shape changes. A lumbar support cushion may be beneficial. A footrest may help with swelling of the ankles, which is common in pregnancy.


Display screens

The hazards to try to avoid here are visual fatigue and pain caused by using a non-neutral posture. Visual fatigue can be caused by;

  1. poor or uncorrected vision [1]
  2. extended periods working at the screen without a change of activity[2]
  3. glare/reflections on the screen.[2]
  4. Poor screen quality[1]


Symptoms may include:

  • Problems seeing or reading.
  • Blurred or double vision.
  • Headaches.
  • Dizziness.
  • Watery or dry eyes.

Eyesight tests are provided and can be requested through the Health & Safety office and their website.

Regular breaks should be taken. Guidelines are that 5-10 minute breaks each hour are better then 15-20 min breaks every two hours

To conform with DSE requirements the monitor should;

  • have swivel, tilt and height adjustment [1]
  • be capable of producing clear characters and images [1]
  • have adjustable brightness/contrast [1]
  • be able to be placed in a usable position that is free from glare/reflection [2]

A neutral body position should be aimed for [2]

Image of person sitting at an office terminal


The recommended location for a display screen is for the screen to be situated at about an arm's length distance. The top of the screen should be level with the operator's eyes. Viewing should be face-on, no twisting. If you are working with paper documents request a document holder [1]. If you use multiple screens then the main screen should be directly in front of you and the extra screen(s), nearby and at the same height. Remember to blink, as it stops eyes from drying out.

Headaches may be more common during pregnancy. Try to avoid strain on your eyes and make sure you have good lighting when reading from paper sources. Sit at a comfortable distance when looking at monitors. Use monitor adjustment to ensure the screen is not too bright. Have the monitor moved as pregnancy progresses to keep it at the recommended 'arms length' or comfortable distance.

Illustation of correct wrist position for mouse use


Hand, arm and shoulder pain can develop over time and is associated with repetitive motions which distort neutral posture. The wrist, in particular, may have problems if held in a bent position. During pregnancy you may be more more vulnerable to wrist pain and it is important to develop good practice when using a mouse, or typing. Try to flex your wrist as little as possible, make sure you are not overreaching for mouse or keyboard.


Proper keyboard usage will help prevent repetitive injuries. Your Keyboard should have;

  • an optional tilt function [1]
  • have legible characters on the keys [1]
  • a matt finish which limits reflection and glare

In use you should ensure;

  • it is kept within easy reach of the hands.
  • you maintain good keyboard technique


The keyboard should be kept close to you in order to prevent extra strain on your spine caused by bending over to compensate for the keyboard distance [2]. You should endeavour to maintain good keyboard technique (avoid 'single finger' typing), hitting the keys too hard and ensure that your wrists are kept in line with the arms. Bending or putting pressure on the wrist will cause injuries [2].

Proper mouse usage will help prevent repetitive injuries. The mouse should be cleaned regularly [2] and glide smoothly over the desk surface/mat [1] Guidelines: Try to position your mouse close to your body, with enough working area to avoid repetitive lift and replace movements. When moving the mouse try to keep the wrist inflexible and use the whole arm. Do not hover fingers over the buttons or press them too hard [2].



An ill adjusted chair has the potential to cause significant pain over time. Your chair should have:

  • a stable base with at least 5 castors [1]
  • be height adjustable [1]
  • have an adjustable lumbar support [1]
  • a foot rest can be made available for anyone who requires one [1]


Your chair should be adjusted so that it allow you to sit with support to your lumbar area and to make the angle of your arms to the keyboard roughly 90 degrees [2]. Your feet should rest on a hard surface (floor, or foot stool) in such a way as to ensure their is no undue pressure behind your knee and your knees should be positioned slightly lower than your hips [2]. If your chair has armrests, ideally they should be adjusted so that they do not interfere with your freedom of movement [2].


Work desk

  • The work desk or work surface shall have a sufficiently large, low-reflectance surface and allow a flexible arrangement of the screen,
  • keyboard, documents and related equipment [1].
  • A document holder, if required, shall be stable and adjustable [1] and shall be positioned so as to minimise the need for uncomfortable head and eye movements [2].
  • There shall be adequate space for operators or users to find a comfortable position [1,2].


Desks should be kept relatively clutter free in order to allow you to achieve the necessary neutral position as often as possible whilst typing [2]. If you are particularly tall, they should be adjusted to suit [1].


  • The workstation shall be appropriately sized to accommodate DSE equipment and work materials [1].
  • Lighting should be adequate for DSE work and provide an appropriate contrast between the screen and the background environment [1].
  • Glare from task lighting should be avoided [2]
  • Reflections should be eliminated by adjusting the screen appropriately [2].
  • Screens should be fitted to windows, if necessary [1].
  • Room air changes, heat and noise levels should be comfortable [1].


  • Adjust your equipment such that it avoids unnecessary reflection and glare [2]
  • If window light is an issue, request a blind [1] The quality of air and temperature in the room should meet current standards and noise levels should be minimalised, where possible.



These devices are generally not good for prolonged usage and are not recommended for such work. If you have one as your main work device and have to interact with it for a prolonged period you should:

Use it with an external monitor, mouse and keyboard [1] make sure you have frequent breaks or changes of activity away from the screen [2]

If you use it while travelling, try to avoid using it while seated in soft furnishings as you will likely have poor arm to wrist angle and body posture. Whenever possible, rest your laptop/notebook on a firm, level surface [2].


Using a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). These are not recommended devices for prolonged usage because the keyboards are small and promote the use of a single finger/thumb. There is a risk of developing tendonitis and hand pain.


Do not type for long periods, take frequent breaks. Alternate fingers. Use supports which keep your wrist in a neutral position.Consider regular hand stretching exercises.

DSE eye test

University employees (persons who hold a contract of employment with the University of Edinburgh) who regularly use display screen equipment (DSE/VDU) are entitled to a vision test and eye examination upon request.

Information on University approved Opticians and alternate options can be found at:


The School will not cover the cost of any corrective spectacles which are not relevant to DSE work and are used for different purposes.

Employees who wish to go to some other optician may do so but the School is not required to pay for tests carried out by another optician. To find out whether Informatics are prepared to assist you must first seek the approval of the Safety Adviser to agree the arrangements for reimbursement of costs. An employee will be required to pay the initial costs which will later be reimbursed by the School (to the University accepted value) on provision of a receipt clearly stating the employee's full name and that the prescribed corrective spectacles are to be used specifically for work with computer screens.


Reviewed: 26/05/22 dch