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IT Health and Safety : how often should I take a break from my computer?

Although there is no fixed time between breaks or length of breaks stated in the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992, the regulations do suggest that breaks should be ‘periodically’ taken. The regulations suggest that each person’s work should be designed to include a mix of tasks, some screen based and some non-screen based, to allow natural breaks from concentrating on the screen, sitting in the same position or repetitive input work, for example.

Sometimes, due to the nature of your work, this is not possible, and in this case, deliberate breaks must be introduced.

We suggest as a minimum guideline at least 5 minutes in every hour should be spent away from the screen, but it’s also important to make sure you change posture regularly, refocus eyes; and doing some simple stretching exercises at your desk can be very useful too. For your eyes, try the 20-20-20 rule - every 20 minutes, look up from your screen at something about 20 feet away for about 20 seconds. This gives the muscles in your eyes a chance to relax.

The HSE suggest that short, frequent breaks are better than less frequent longer breaks, so a 5-10 minute break after 50-60 minutes is better than a 20 minute break every 3 hours. So take this time to stand up, move around, shake your arms and legs, or just change positions will help avoid aches and pains and keep your mind focussed and body energised.

The relevant regulation is…

Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992, daily work routine of users:

4. Every employer shall so plan the activities of users at work in his undertaking that their daily work on display screen equipment is periodically interrupted by such breaks or changes of activity as reducing their workload at that equipment.

Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992

Can DSE work cause any permanent damage?

Both yes and no. DSE work can’t cause any long-term or permanent damage to your eyesight, but it can lead to Musculoskeletal Disorders or MSDs. 

Long-term poor posture causes the curves of your back and neck to become misaligned, placing undue stress on certain pressure points. In the short term, this can lead to aches and pains as it affects muscles, joints, and tendons. Ultimately, however, it can cause lower back pain and even slipped discs.

Always check your posture and take regular breaks away from your desk to help avoid this outcome.

Whilst DSE work can’t cause permanent eye damage, that doesn’t mean you can’t suffer as a result of it. Long spells of DSE work can cause:

  • Tired eyes
  • Discomfort
  • Temporary Short Sightedness, and
  • Headaches

DSE work can also make you aware of underlying eyesight problems you’d not noticed before. Making sure your screens are properly set up and taking regular short breaks are the best way to avoid experiencing any of the negative effects of DSE use. 

Online DSE Training

Here at iHASCO, we offer an IOSH Approved Online DSE Training course that teaches employees how to properly set up their workstation, how to look after their eyes, how many breaks they should take from their screens, and how to properly use portable equipment.

Anyone who regularly uses a computer legally requires DSE Training.

You can claim a no-obligation free trial to our course today!

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