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A Guide to Working With VDUs - Visual Display Units

By: Susan Hunt MA - Updated: 26 Jun 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Vdu Dse Vdt Computer Monitor Screen

A VDU (also known as a VDT or DSE) is the accepted term for the monitor screen used with most computer or workstations.

Long-term use of a VDU can lead to discomfort such as sore or tired eyes and it is recommended that VDU users take a short rest from the screen during every hour of use.

In most jobs, this happens naturally because you break from using the screen to answer telephone calls, print a document or write notes but an increasing number of jobs require you to be facing your monitor for much of the working day.

To ensure that working at a VDU does not lead to discomfort, you should look at a number of issues:

  • Is your screen glare/ reflection-free?
  • Is the contrast too high or low?
  • Does the brightness need turned up or down?
  • Does the screen flicker or do objects appear to be out of focus at all?
  • Is the text size easy to read?
  • Is your keyboard positioned well for you to type?
  • Is your mouse positioned close to you to reach comfortably?
  • Can you comfortably reach everything on your desk?
  • Is your chair a comfortable height for the desk you are using?
  • Are you taking regular breaks, especially with a taxing workload?

The most common problems reported by VDU operators are:

  • Tired eyes after long periods of time at work. You need to check the position of yourscreen and ensure that workspace lighting is adequate
  • Headaches, which can occur when you look at a screen for too long, especially if thequality of the image is poor or there is glare on the screen.

If you are experiencing discomfort, try:

  • Moving your keyboard a little further away. (A gap for your wrists to rest on the desk willhelp relax your wrists when not typing)
  • Keep your wrists straight when typing
  • Avoid banging hard on the keys as this causes unnecessary strain on your fingers
  • Make sure your mouse is within easy reach
  • Clean the screen regularly and ensure it is free from glare
  • Adjust the tilt of your screen to the most comfortable position
  • Change the size of the text to make it easier to read
  • Make sure the contrast and brightness are not too harsh
  • Avert your gaze from the screen every few minutes and stretch your muscles regularly

Your employer must provide you with health and safety information about working with VDUs but you’ll be happy to know that latest government research suggests that VDUs in themselves are not harmful to health.

Radiation Danger?

Although it was once thought that VDU operators could be at risk from radiation, research has now shown that they do not expose you to harmful radiation. (They do give off a small amount of electromagnetic radiation but this is well below the level thought to be harmful.)

Most discomfort reported by VDU users can be relieved by changing the monitor settings, such as brightness/text size or adjusting its position.

Pregnancy

Many pregnant women worry about using VDUs but latest guidance suggests they are completely safe and will not cause damage to an unborn baby.

The main problem for VDU operators is tired eyes and some people believe their eyesight deteriorates after long periods of VDU work. If you are covered by VDU regulations, it is a legal requirement for your employer to cover the cost of regular eye tests.

Contact Lenses

Some contact lenses wearers complain of discomfort when working with a VDU and it is likely that this is because the heat from a VDU can dry the air. If this is a problem, you could try tear-substitute lenses or wear glasses when using a VDU for prolonged periods.

Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) have been linked to VDU work and you can find out more about this in our separate RSI article.

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations require that risks from VDUs are minimized for employees and the regulations also cover employees who work from home.

The regulations do not cover self-employed people (unless you are using a client’s workspace in which case they must ensure the workspace has been risk assessed and give you the relevant VDU information.)

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