Recent HSE statistics related to ill-health in the workplace show that working with Display Screen Equipment (DSE) continues to be an area of concern when it comes to health and safety, possibly indicating that not every organisation is addressing the risk adequately.

Since 2005 a surveillance scheme has collected reports of new cases of work-related ill-health from a sample of around 250 GPs. In 2013 these surveys* showed that:

  • Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) were the most common type of work-related illness.
  • Mental ill-health gave rise to most working days lost.
  • Stress, depression or anxiety and musculoskeletal disorders accounted for the majority of days lost due to work-related ill-health, 11.3 and 8.3 million days respectively.
  • The average days lost per case for stress, depression or anxiety (23 days) was higher than for musculoskeletal disorders (16 days).

According to the latest Labour Force Survey (LFS), around 80% of the new work-related conditions in 2013/14 were musculoskeletal disorders or stress, depression or anxiety. An estimated 2604 new cases of work-related ill-health seen in general practice clinics were reported by 157 GPs in 2013. The majority of the cases were work-related musculoskeletal disorders (48%) and mental ill-health (38%)**

Indeed he latest estimates from the LFS show that despite the generally downward trend in the rate of total cases and new cases of work-related MSDs since 2001/02, the number of new cases of MSDs was up by 30% in 2013/14 from 2011/12 from 141,000 to 184,000 – a shocking statistic.

So what are the causes of MSDs and how much of an impact does DSE use have when it comes to MSDs, repetitive strain disorders and upper limb disorders?

As detailed in the HSE document Musculoskeletal Disorders in Great Britain 2014, the General Practitioners reporting as part of the THOR-GP scheme, the biggest cause of back disorder in the workplace is heavy lifting (as expected), however keyboard use is the second largest cause of back disorder and clearly action should be taken by employers to try to improve this situation

The GPs report in the assessment that;

  • Manual handling (pulling/pushing and lifting) caused about 80 000 news cases
  • Keyboard work or repetitive actions caused 56,000 new cases.
  • Awkward and tiring positions was the next most significant cause with 28,000 new cases.

The estimated number of working days lost in 2013/14 due to Upper Limb Disorders (ULD) was 3.2 million. On average each person with a ULD took 15.9 days off work, equating to an average loss of 0.13 days per worker.

Musculoskeletal issues are of course being recognised globally with many countries having legislation in place to address such issues, as well as government promotional campaigns such as the recent Repetitive Strain Injury Awareness Day in Canada on 29th February.

The Global Burden of Disease 2010 study shows that low back pain (LBP) is the primary cause of disability. Many studies have associated LBP with substantial financial costs and a loss of quality of life. In fact, LBP is the number one reason for missing days at work in the western world.

One of the requirements for organisations is to assess the DSE risk which includes devices or equipment that have an alphanumeric or graphic display screen and includes display screens, laptops, touch screens and other similar devices. DSE now includes an array of differing pieces of equipment.

As well as the human and financial cost of illness caused as a result of such injuries failure to take action on the risks from display screen equipment may open organisations up to litigation or the HSE serving an improvement notice (something that has happened on more than one occasion)

Rotherham College was served an improvement notice in 2012 for failure to perform suitable and sufficient analysis of DSE users or reduce the risks identified as a consequence of an assessment. Improvement Notice 304004893 served as failure to ensure DSE users were provided with adequate training in the use of workstations. Other organisations continue to receive such notices.

Evidence continues to grow of the impact poor management of DSE risk is having.

One way Cardinus is helping to address the issue is through our Managed Services. This service allows Cardinus to manage an organisations entire DSE assessment and training process, helping an organisation to effectively and efficiently manage their DSE risk. A number of organisations now use this service to great effect.

Recently, a Managed Service client with 3,000 users went from a fully compliance rate of 30% to 80% in just six months. The process enables our experts to address the majority of identified issues with DSE users quickly and cost effectively – normally with no further intervention. Where higher risk issues are identified these can normally be addressed through telephonic intervention.

Call the Managed Services team on 020 7469 0200 or email info@cardinus.com for more information.

*HSE Annual statistics report 2013/14
**THOR-GP- Institute of Population Health

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