Working with display screen equipment — do you know your rights?

Publication Date01 Apr 1992
Pages209-216
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/eb045162
AuthorAnne Morris
subjectMatterInformation & knowledge management,Library & information science
Article
Working with display
screen equipment do
you know your rights?
Anne Morris
Department of Information and Library Studies,
Loughborough University of
Technology,
Loughborough, Leics.
LE11
3TU, UK
Abstract: The European Community Directive
90/270/EEC,
issued
in
1990, concerns the minimum health
and
safety standards of display
screen
users. The Directive
becomes law in the
UK
and
the
rest of Europe on
1
January
1993
and instructs national administrations to bring the
laws
and regulations necessary to make it effective into
force. In the UK this responsibility falls to
the
Health and
Safety Executive (HSE). This paper describes possible risks
to workers using display screen equipment, standards
relating to visual display terminals, the provisions of the
Directive, how these have been interpreted
by the
HSE in its
draft legislation and
the
implications of this legislation for
libraries.
1.
Introduction
Employees in the UK are currently protected by the Health
and Safety at Work Act 1974, which requires employees to
provide safe equipment, work systems and working environ-
ment. This applies to work with display screen equipment as
much as any other work, but there are currently no legislative
requirements applying specifically to work with visual dis-
play terminals (VDTs), also known as visual display units
(VDUs). The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK
has,
however, offered guidance in the form of
a
booklet, Vis-
ual Display Units (HSE 1983) and a free leaflet
Working
with
VDUs (HSE 1986). Legislation will be necessary, though, to
implement the recent European Community Directive
90/270/EEC (EEC 1990).
The Directive, issued in 1990, is concerned with the mini-
mum health and safety standards of display screen equipment.
The Directive becomes law in the UK and the rest of Europe
on
1
January 1993 and instructs national administrations to
bring into force the laws and regulations necessary to make
this effective. In the UK this responsibility falls to the Health
and Safety Executive (HSE) which has recently published a
consultative document outlining draft regulations and guid-
ance (HSE 1992). When passed, the legislation will be im-
plemented under the Health and Safety at Work Act and give
local authority environmental health officers the responsi-
bility of enforcement.
This paper describes possible risks to workers using dis-
play screen equipment, standards relating to
VDTs,
the provi-
sions of the Directive, how they have been interpreted by the
HSE in its draft legislation and the implications of this legis-
lation for libraries.
2.
Possible health risks
The introduction of VDTs into workplaces has aroused con-
siderable controversy with numerous allegations being made
about health implications. Claims and, in some cases, counter
claims have been made by a variety of
groups,
with the issue
receiving much media attention. While there has been a cer-
tain degree of misinformation and scaremongering, the health
hazards alleged are much too serious to ignore, as the issuing
of
the
EEC Directive confirms.
The various reported risks associated with VDT work are
summarised below. It is apparent that many of
these
risks can
be reduced or even eliminated if proper attention is given to
workstation design, environmental working conditions and
job design. Workers most at risk are those who have to spend
long periods of
time
working with a VDT without changes of
activity. Since library staff
are
spending more and more time
working with automated systems and
VDTs,
any health impli-
cations should be taken seriously. Indeed, when the new regu-
lations become effective in
1993,
employers will have a legal
obligation to take them seriously.
2.1.
Aches and pains
VDT operators report a high incidence of muscular discom-
fort, particularly in shoulders, neck and upper arms (wrists
and hands) (Bergqvist 1986). Pain may also occur in the back
and legs. Most of the recent publicity has concentrated on
repetitive strain injuries (RSI) which include tenosynovitis,
writer's cramp, carpal tunnel syndrome and occupational cer-
vicobrachial syndrome (NALGO 1986).
The severity of problems appears to be influenced by two
principal factors: the length of
time
operators have to adopt a
fixed posture and the design of the workstation.
The Electronic Library, Vol. 10, No. 4, August 1992 209

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