Ensuring your business has access to competent Display Screen Equipment (DSE) risk management advice

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At Ergability, we provide a complete range DSE risk management solutions to a variety of businesses. From SME's to large multinationals, DSE risk management is essential for most business sectors. Optimal DSE risk management improves productivity, reduces staff absence, enhances wellbeing and helps contribute to organisational success.

A common issue we see is that organisations lack competently trained and supported internal support to optimise DSE risk management. Quite often an employee might have been assigned the responsibility to manage DSE related risks yet may only be provided with DSE related reference documentation and / or completed unaccredited DSE training several years previously. Furthermore, the designated employee may not have access to adequate ongoing mentoring or support to ensure they are competently managing DSE related risks. It is therefore important to offer a variety of solutions to support DSE risk management within a business. Potential solutions for consideration include, but are not limited, to the following:

  • Ensure your designated person/s have attended an accredited DSE workstation assessor training course. The course should ideally be developed and delivered with chartered ergonomist expertise
  • Provide the designated person/s with access to ongoing DSE risk management support. This can be in the form of mentoring, periodic evaluation of assessment reports and / or ability to attend refresher DSE workstation training.
  • Provide the designated person/s with adequate independent training and advice in regards to  procurement and allocation of DSE related equipment.
  • Ensure the person/s responsible have appropriate skill, expertise and time to manage any internal training and self - risk assessment process.
  • Review organisational and safety systems to ensure they support the person/s responsible for DSE risk management. 
  • Consider outsourcing DSE risk management responsibilities to more efficiently management DSE related risk and free up internal staff workload.

Ergability are ideally placed to provide your business with a broad range of DSE risk management solutions to address any identified deficits in this regard. Our solutions range from accredited DSE workstation assessor training to conducting escalated assessments for complex cases and implementation and management of a comprehensive DSE user training and self - risk assessment system. Furthermore, we can provide cost effective ongoing mentoring and support for your designated person/s including advice on equipment selection, reviewing assessment reports and providing ad hoc assistance when required. Importantly, our expertise can also be utilised to review and optimise existing DSE related organisational and safety systems. While DSE related issues are often considered as 'low risk', the broad usage of DSE, and prevalence of DSE related musculoskeletal and mental health related disorders, means that all businesses should ensure they have access to competant DSE risk management support.  

We are more than happy to discuss how we can optimise DSE risk management within your business and please feel free to contact Ergability at info@ergability.com or call +44 (0)333 3554 184 if you would like further advice in this regard. 

Key factors to consider before changing your mouse (input device)

“What is the best mouse?” I am often asked this question by clients who are experiencing symptoms during computer use. They may have seen a non-standard mouse or relevant advertising material purporting to state that a certain input device is best to manage their presenting symptoms. With the market full of a diverse array of input devices such as track pads, roller bars, vertical mice, joysticks and trackballs it can be difficult for clients to determine which input device will best fit their needs.

Before deciding whether or not to change an input device it is important to consider several key factors. Considering these factors is vital to successfully manage symptoms that may be related to, and / or caused by, input device use. The key factors are as follows:

  • Has spinal and upper limb posture been effectively assessed and controlled? Excessive shoulder protraction and arm extension is a common postural issue that should be addressed prior to determining if an alternative input device is required.
  • Have other workstation set up factors that contribute to poor upper limb posture been addressed? Commonly, this will include inadequate chair set up and poorly positioned input devices.
  • Is the input device being used correctly to support hand, finger and thumb function?
  • Is the wrist / forearm fixed or compressed onto the work surface when operating the input device? This is a common issue and is quite often a significant contributing factor to symptoms which are unlikely to change by only providing a new input device.
  • Are wrist pads or forearm supports being used with input devices? Are these indicated? Do they promote excessive compression of the wrist / forearm or poor upper limb posture?
  • Does the current input device “fit” the user? Has hand size and handedness been considered? The sizing and layout of input device controls should reflect these factors.
  • Is the input device being used at a shared workstation? If so, the selection of an appropriate input device will have to consider the needs of multiple users.
  • What tasks are performed with the input device? Do they require high degree of accuracy?
  • Have all input device functions such as reaction time been configured for the user? Adjusting and optimising these functions will enhance usability.
  • Is overall workload a contributing factor? Do task requirements need to be modified so that the volume and frequency of input device use can be better controlled?
  • Are tabs, keyboard shortcuts and hot keys being used adequately? Use of these functions can reduce the need for mouse use.
  • What is the underlying cause of any symptoms (if present)? How do these symptoms impact functional capacity when using input devices? Understanding these elements is essential to ensuring the input device is used appropriately. If necessary, consideration should be given to selecting an alternate input device.
  • Are regular circulatory and range of motion exercises being performed? These can great assist with symptom management.
  • Do alternative input device options need to be considered that significantly reduce the need for upper limb use? These may include infrared camera head trackers, eye trackers and speech recognition software.

It is important to note that there is no ideal input device that will fit all users needs. However, consideration of these key factors will better assist with symptom management and determining if an existing input device is acceptable or a non-standard option should be considered. Please feel free to contact Ergability at info@ergability.com if you require expert advice on assessing input device use and / or office workstation ergonomics.

Job Demand Analysis – a key tool to better manage business risk and optimise occupational health and safety

What is a Job Demand Analysis?

A clear and comprehensive Job Demand Analysis (JDA) is a vital reference document for any organisation to better manage business risk as well as occupational health and safety. A JDA is quite different to a more commonly used Job Description. A Job Description generally gives an overarching summary of the job and is commonly written in paragraph format. A JDA on the other hand is completed by an expert in workplace health and ergonomics and provides a quantifiable evaluation of the physical, cognitive, environmental and organisational job demands for specific roles. It also provides a breakdown of the demands of relevant task elements with photographic and / or diagrammatic representation. Importantly it also provides task frequency and exposure levels for relevant task elements in clear and easy to understand terminology that can be shared with all aspects of a business support such as operational management, human resources and safety professionals.

So why invest in completing a Job Demands Analysis?

A JDA is a valuable reference document and can achieve a significant return on investment for any organisation. It can be successfully applied across any industry sector and has the following benefits:

  • Provides a clear understanding of job demands when matching recruitment of new employees with job demands.
  • Facilitates clear determination of the return to work goal and aides return to work planning by clearly identifying the necessary job demands for employees who are absent from work due to an injury, illness or health condition.
  • Facilitates more accurate, detailed and timely medical fit note certification for absent employees when communicated with relevant external parties such as treating medical practitioners.
  • Promote safer, more timely and durable return to work outcomes for absent employees.
  • Assist in clearly understanding other jobs employees may be able to perform in line with their functional work capacity.
  • Assist in achieving improved outcomes when communicating with external business support such as Occupational Health and / or the new government Fit for Work scheme.
  • Incorporate an assessment of accepted modifications to task elements to assist disabled employees and / or absent employees.
  • Assist occupational health and safety risk management activities through a better understanding of job demands.

At Ergability we are experts in occupational health and ergonomics and completing JDA’s. Feel free to contact us today at info@ergability.com or call +44 (0) 03333 554 184 to further understand how a JDA can assist in optimising the performance and health of your business and staff.


Optimising sickness absence management

Key sickness absence management principles that optimise the performance and health of your business and staff

Recently the average cost of sickness absence has been measured at approximately £100 per day for an absent employee (CIPD, 2014). However the true cost is likely to be significantly greater than this amount for many businesses due to additional factors including, but not limited to, increased workload on other staff, human resources management, lost productivity, reduced staff morale, cost of replacement staff and impacts on client relationships (Kronos, 2014). Indeed the true cost of unplanned sickness absence for many businesses will likely average several hundreds of pounds per absent employee / day.

However businesses can effectively control sickness absence costs by taking steps to ensure sickness absence management policy, systems and processes adequately control the costs and risks associated with sickness absence. Any review should ideally be undertaken by an occupational health consultant with experience in analysing related systems, policies, processes and people. The review should incorporate a structured and holistic sickness absence audit to assess your performance against best practice guidelines. Key elements to review are as follows:

  1. Review your businesses current and historical absence rates, durations and categories in comparison to normative data e.g. CIPD and HSE absence figures.
  2. Measure the true cost of absence for your organisation based on an assessment of the specific direct and indirect costs.
  3. Review your current sickness absence capture process to ensure the business is capturing absence in a timely and structured manner. Absence capture should incorporate the following:
  • Cause of absence based on health condition category.
  • Estimated return to work date.
  • Whether the absence has a reported work related cause or aggravation.
  • Escalated triggers based on organisational risk e.g. repeated short term absence or mental health related absence.
  • Initial steps taken to manage absence e.g. refer to occupational health and / or encourage use of employee assistance programme.
  • Level of medical certification.
  • Steps taken to close off absence once employee has returned to work e.g. return to work interview.
  1. Review the existing human resource and occupational health provision related to the management of sickness absence. The review should assess the following:
  • Is sickness absence management advice being sought in a timely manner? Any delay in referral will likely increase the risk of extended absence and reduce the potential for a successful return to work.
  • Does your current human resources support have adequate skills to manage all sickness absence? Are they escalating referrals to occupational health in a timely manner?
  • Does the occupational health provider utilise a triage process to prioritise the level of involvement?
  • Is escalated referral for occupational health based on triggers that are linked to organisational risk and the absence capture process?
  • Does the advice adequately consider the referral requirements and provide you with clear and proactive recommendations regarding an employees current fitness for work, prognosis, return to work plan, potential workplace adjustments / modifications and practical strategies to address identified return to work issues and barriers?
  • Does the advice promote safe, durable and timely return to work outcomes?
  1. Review the current new employee health screening when a new employee starts with your business. Health screening should be tailored to both job and environmental demands and also be linked to any specific workplace hazards. Subsequent fitness for work recommendations should be significantly detailed enough to reduce the risk of aggravating any underlying health condition. Assessing an employee’s health at the start of their employee lifecycle also provides a very cost effective control to prevent potential sickness absence.
  2. Review the adequacy of the current absence management policy. Does the policy cover all aspects of absence management from absence capture to occupational health referral and return to work process? Are employees informed of the policy and does it adequately consider all absence risk controls?
  3. Review the organisations job and environmental demands. Has the business adequately assessed the job and environmental demands? Are they clearly presented in a resource document that is accesible by key stakeholders? A comprehensive job demands analysis completed by an experienced ergonomic workplace assessor can be a valuable return to work resource for management, occupational health, safety and human resources.
  4. Review the current modified duties and / or workplace adjustments that can be considered. Has the business proactively considered potential workplace adjustments / modifications for different jobs? These should ideally be considered while undertaking a job demand analysis so the demands of any adjustments / modifcations can match an employees functional work capacity.
  5. Review current return to work plans. Do your current return to work plans for absent employees provide enough detail to efficiently manage the return to work process?
  6. Review competency and support provided to human resources and / or operational managers to manage the return to work process. Do your staff have sufficient skills, knowledge and resources to appropriately manage the return to work process?
  7. Review existing wellbeing and health management controls and initiatives. Has your business reviewed the effectiveness of such measures as health screening, health surveillance, wellbeing programmes, employee assistance programmes, private medical insurance and / or health plans? Are these controls in line with your businesses absence risks?
  8. Has your business reviewed the current impact of presenteeism (employees attending work while suffering from a health condition, injury and / or illness)? Presenteeism can have a significant cost impact and inevitably contribute to the level of sick absence risk.
  9. Review employer’s liability insurance services. Several employers liability insurance providers fund pre-claim rehabilitation services which provide cost effective rehabilitation services to manage sickness absence that is caused and / or aggravated by work?
  10. Review existing safety risk management strategies. Does your business adequately assess, manage and control work related risk factors that might contribute to employee sickness absence? Key elements to consider include job design, workload demands, environmental hazards and equipment design.
  11. Review business culture. Does your business culture consistently support safe, durable and timely return to work for employees?
  12. And last but certainly not least. Has your business integrated the new UK government fit for work service into relevant policies, systems and processes? How is this service going to be integrated into your existing occupational health provision?

At Ergability, we provide specialist occupational health and rehabilitation consultancy services that optimise the performance and health of your business and staff. We provide clear and proactive recommendations that control the costs associated with sickness absence and also contribute to business success.