Current legislation requires anyone working with a screen, laptop, desktop computer, tablet etc. for greater than one hour a day to have their workstation visual display unit/display screen equipment (VDU/DSE) assessed. Our senior Health and Safety expert Paul Marson looks at what this means for Irish employers in the latest article in our ‘Let’s Talk Safety’ blog series. He considers the implications for employers offering hybrid work options to employees and also looks beyond basic compliancy. Exploring the business advantages that can be unlocked by embracing the marginal gains to team performance that assessments could bring.

Are employers obliged to assess workstations for employees working remotely?

As the way we work changes, and more of a hybrid style workplace comes into effect, where our employees are working from, can now sometimes be a remote office, or an employee’s own home.

The risks of muscular skeletal disorders that are assessed during a workplace assessment as well as the employer’s legal obligations, don’t go away because the employee is working from their home or outside the workplace office, in fact the risks to employees are often increased in remote work, due to lack of office furniture, computer hardware, office chair etc. that employees would be used to in the workplace office.

Employers are required by regulations, to assess the risks of muscular skeletal disorders of their employee’s workstation, regardless of where that workstation is based, home, office, remote.

So, if employers adopt a hybrid work policy, or working from home policy, they are required to assess the risks to their employees, and provide appropriate risk control measures for working remotely, in the same way they do for those working in the workplace office itself.

How can workstation assessments (VDU/DSE) improve worker efficiency?

While seen as a legal requirement, a cost, or maybe an annoyance, these assessments represent an opportunity for improvement. While carrying out an assessment, assessors look to reduce any risk to the employee while working at a screen, risk of muscular skeletal disorders, stress etc. However, an assessment also looks to highlight possible improvements to workflow, and processes, or to improve an individual’s ability to work more effectively.

A workstation assessment may require input from the employee, their manager, I.T. dept, facilities dept, and possibly the procurement department, all working to adapt or optimise that employee’s workspace to enable them to perform at their optimum level.

After all, that is what Ergonomics is “the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment”.

Get the workstation assessment right first time!

A recent workstation assessment of a large multinational corporation revealed many employees who were working on laptops with an 11” screen all day, while brand-new equipment, keyboard, mouse as well as two 24” screens, screen risers, etc., all sat unconnected, and unused at every workstation, due to incompatible docking stations being provided for the laptops. Anyone who has ever reviewed a large document or balance sheet on a laptop can understand how uncomfortable and ineffective this can be.

Even the best of technology, if it isn’t the right technology, can represent a huge expense to an organisation, with absolutely no benefit to anyone.

Unlocking marginal gains for workplace performance

If we take the idea of a workstation assessment and apply it to a world-class sports team, like the 7-time Tour de France winning team, Team Sky. In 2012 when they set out to reach the pinnacle of their sport and win the Tour de France, with a British rider for the first time in the races history, team manager, Dave Brailsford, decided that instead of focusing on being better at cycling than all the other teams on the road, they would focus on each individual rider in the team providing the best environment, and equipment for each rider to be able to perform at their optimum level. They tailored their approach to reducing any interference to a rider’s performance, creating an environment where anything that detracted from a rider’s performance, was removed or improved.

He referred to the process as Marginal Gains.

After assessing all their riders individually, they worked with their sponsors to provide bespoke combinations and sizes of all equipment, specific to each of their riders, as the riders themselves were all shapes and sizes. This ensured that team mechanics could provide each rider on the team with a complete bike and equipment set up just for them, and how they ride. No two bikes on the team were the same, as no two riders on the team were the same. At the time this was completely unheard of. Previously all riders on a pro cycling team rode the same bikes as all their teammates. The same frames, saddles, pedals, and handlebars.
But we are not all the same!

Brailsford’s process of marginal gains ensured that once the racing began, there was no reason for any rider on Team Sky not to perform to their highest level.

By applying the same process to our workplaces, it offers us the opportunity to identify the small things, and the marginal gains we can make to improve an individual’s ability to work more effectively, improving the team’s overall effectiveness.

Beyond Health and Safety Compliance to Improved Business Performance

We need to move away from looking at VDU/DSE assessments as an unnecessary expense, or box-ticking exercise and see them more as a tool to improve each Individual employee’s ability to achieve their true potential within our team.

If you need support with Workstation Assessments (VDU/DSE) or have any questions or concerns about current Health and Safety Regulations and how they might impact your business, please contact our experts in Adare Human Resource Management on 01 561 3594 / 061 363 805 or email