5 FAQs on IT health and safety
- What are the main IT health and safety issues?
- Do we need to perform a risk assessment?
- Do we need to update our health and safety policy?
- How can we make sure employees use computers safely?
- Should we consider health and safety when buying new equipment?
1. What are the main IT health and safety issues?
When it comes to IT and working with computers, health and safety problems tend to arise in these areas:
- Employee comfort. It's important to provide computer equipment that your staff can use without straining. For instance, monitors should be a reasonable size, clear and adjustable.
- Musculo-skeletal problems. Over time, poor posture, badly-positioned computer equipment and incorrect use of items such as keyboards can lead to serious health issues like repetitive strain injury (RSI).
- Mobile equipment. Hardware like laptops and tablets can be a health and safety nightmare. The problems are mainly related to ergonomics. For instance, working hunched over a laptop is a recipe for aches and pains.
- Eye-strain and vision. You must pay for annual eye tests for any employees who use computers regularly. Also think about office lighting and how to position screens in a way that minimises glare.
- Malfunctioning hardware. Regulations require your business to have electrical appliances - including computer equipment - tested regularly. Don't let your staff use faulty items.
2. Do we need to perform a risk assessment?
Yes. Although using computers is generally a low-risk activity, it's important to assess the risks accurately.
You should consider them as part of your overall health and safety and risk assessment process. It's no different to assessing risks in any other area.
3. Do we need to update our health and safety policy?
You don't need to have a separate policy to deal solely with IT health and safety issues, but it is important your company's health and safety policy covers safe use of IT equipment.
4. How can we make sure staff use computers safely?
Doing everything you can to keep staff safe is in the interests of both your business and your employees.
It's a really good idea to make sure everyone who works regularly with a computer understands how to adjust their chair, screen, keyboard, mouse and other equipment. This will ensure they don't place unnecessary strain on any part of their body while at work.
Provide training in basic good practice as part of your induction process. You can also provide occasional refresher training and use company bulletins, meetings or emails to remind staff how to use IT safely.
The Health and Safety Executive publishes an excellent document (PDF) that explains how to use computers safely. You could also consider bringing in a consultant to evaluate your employees as they work.
5. Should we consider health and safety when buying new equipment?
It's worth thinking about how the equipment will be used, and whether your employees will find it comfortable.
Relatively inexpensive items like keyboards and mice can make a big difference to comfort, so you may wish to allow employees to choose models they prefer.
Computer screens are important too. In general, bigger is better. Try and invest in models that are height-adjustable and can be tilted to a comfortable angle.
Finally, make sure furniture can be adjusted so your staff are comfortable. Provide foot rests, lumbar support and other items to staff on an individual basis.