Is anyone out there knowledgeable about the current legal regulations for VDU usage?

Question: Is anyone out there knowledgeable about the current legal regulations for VDU usage?  We are currently arguing with our Health and Safety dept. over a new training room which has been installed. The vdus have been embedded under the desks with a clear glass top to enable them to be read. The display is not central so that you have to sit right over one side to read them properly (thus having your legs pushed against the side of the desk. Also they are of such a height that in order to get the keyboarding height correctly you need to raise your chair so high that the tops of your legs are scraping against the underside of the desk.

I have refused to use the room point blank. Other non-rsi people have moaned and got a health and safety assessment done. This came back as perfectly within the legal limits – the main argument being that as these desks weren’t your normal workstation they didn’t have to conform to the same level.  This seems like a load of bull to me. Most training courses last at least one day (i.e. 7.5 hours) and some up to a week. I have trouble believing that the legal requirements state that this is correct! They did however admit it wouldn’t be very good for people who already had back or neck problems!

My understanding of the legal issues was that any VDU you used for more than a couple of hours had to be adjustable so that you could have your eye level at the top of the monitor , at a particular distance away , and that your chair/desk must adjust so that you can sit at the correct keyboarding height ( 90 degree elbow position), including foot rests if required.  As this is a new training room costing thousands of pounds I think there are other issues involved other than safety/comfort !! It was also very disappointing to find out that the room was designed and installed by the training dept. without consultation with our H&S people!!  Anybody knowledgeable around this area/ have an opinion I’d love to hear it.

Answer 1: Not particularly knowledgeable as such – nor am I a lawyer. All I could do would be to read a copy of the various H&S/Display Screen Regs (which you can find on the net in various places). They might be right in law, although it seems to me there could also be some dangerous ground under some form of general employment or H&S law, or even just a general duty of care to their employees, if they caused people pain or strain because they insisted they use this equipment and it didn’t suit/fit them.   Opinion though – sounds wrong, sounds horrid and I wouldn’t care to use it.

Never used embedded screens but I thought that the point was that they had some sort of clever glass/screen that means you could see the picture whilst keeping your head in the normal position – like the newsreaders have – seems crazy to expect you to hunch over them with your eyes pointing downwards – against every ergonomic principle in the book… especially for a whole day or week.  Surely if everyone’s up in arms about it that must carry some weight too – can you write a letter from all of you to the bosses setting out your concerns and pointing out the dangers and problems for those already suffering?  Can you ask for a copy of the H&S report that they had done?

If they’ve admitted that it might not be suitable for anyone who already has back or neck problems isn’t that somewhat of an admission from them? Could you perhaps argue that it is discriminating against disabled people and demand that they provide “reasonable adjustments” for those people?  Could you perhaps ask if they couldn’t provide a table and normal chair and normal monitor to connect into the system for people such as yourself who would find such a set up too hard/painful to use? Even just stand a normal monitor on the top of the flat (ish) surface of these embedded ones?

Answer 2: There are specific VDU regs. I know that for certain. Phone up HSE for a guidance booklet. Perhaps there’s something on their internet site?

Answer 3: I was a safety officer at this department to about five years ago and I don’t believe the regulations (I believe it was the Display Screen Equipment regulations 1992) Have changed since then. There is a legal requirement on the employer to ensure that an workstation is suitable for the user. In our department we define a User somebody who either habitually uses a VDU installation (most all days a week) for significant periods of time (two hours a day, say). In our place this was just about everybody and I’m sure it’s not a lot different in most other offices these days . by this definition, trainees using this room would count as users ..  there is nothing in the regulations that restricts its application to a particular individual’s “normal place of work .

In order to meet the basic ergonomic requirements, In most cases this will mean having some adjust-ability in the furniture or the location of a VDU.  note that the term workstation includes not only the computer equipment being used but also of the desk and seating. It can also include the ambient qualities such as lighting and other nearby surfaces  From my understanding, the fact that this is a training room and not the “normal workstation” should not matter a jot. The employer still has the legal obligation to carry out an assessment of the installation, and this is very important, in respect of the actual people that are to use it.

Obviously it would be highly impractical to carry out an in-depth assessment of each trainee ( a proper assessment could take about an hour), but some general assessment should exist for the “average” person. If there will be any users who are significantly non-Average (taller/shorter ) or have special needs then a separate assessment should have been carried out for them. this would be something of a compromise policy that none the less met the intent of the legislation in spirit.  Maybe you should ask in the first instance to see the risk assessment that has been carried out for the room, assuming there is one. If there is not such a document 10 your employer is in breach of the law.  For what you say it sounds as if health and safety legislation has been quite far from the minds of those who commissioned the training room, and probably those who installed it. Ignorance is no defense as they say .

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