Display Screen Equipment (DSE) formerly known as Visual Display Units or Terminals (VDUs/VDTs), have become an increasing part of work & home life over the past few decades.
Legislation was introduced in the UK which covers the use of this equipment whilst at work, called the “Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992”. Guidance to these Regulations gives information on among other things “Rest breaks” or changes in activities to prevent tiredness, fatigue, or musclo-skeletal disorders (MSDs), previously known as Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs).
These are covered by Regulation 4 and the intention is that breaks should be taken on a regular & frequent basis, before the onset of fatigue, rather than for recovery or recuperation.
Whilst at one time these regulations were interpreted into BT policy through ISIS documents SFY/LAP/A024 & A025, these no longer exist in this form. However, the policy still remains in spirit & should at least comply with the law of the land.
For example the paragraph below from the BT HR website says:
Daily Work Routine and Rest Breaks
- Line Managers must plan staff activities in such a way that daily work on DSE is periodically interrupted by breaks or changes in work activity. Any activity that would demand similar use of the arms or hands, must be avoided during breaks.
- Most jobs cover both DSE work and associated tasks, which mean natural breaks from the screen occur. Certain BT work however, does not lend itself to “non-DSE tasks” (e.g. continued word processing, call centres) and therefore deliberate Rest Breaks must be introduced to break concentration and prevent fatigue to the ‘Intensive User’ (note: this is in addition to the Working Time Directive requirement for rest periods ie tea and coffee breaks. Refer to the HR page on Rest Periods and your own Business Units).
- DSE Rest Breaks should be taken before fatigue sets in, when performance is at maximum and before productivity reduces. Generally, short frequent breaks are more satisfactory than occasional longer breaks, i.e. a 5-10 minute break is recommended after 50-60 minutes continuous screen and/or keyboard work, rather than 15 minutes every 2 hours. Line Managers should refer to their own Business Units for guidance on how to manage DSE Rest Breaks.
Exercise routines, which include blinking, focusing the eyes on distant objects or stretching can also be helpful in preventing fatigue.”
Further information can be found at URLs: