The importance of workstation assessments to reduce health and safety litigation

Business owners are accountable for the health and safety of everyone that works for them. It’s their responsibility to reduce risks and failing to do so could put their business in breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act and Health and Safety Regulations 1992. A fundamental part of the Health and Safety at Work Act is the legislation with regards to display screen equipment (DSE). It’s key that all businesses meet Health and Safety Regulations 1992 regarding display screen equipment. Businesses need to make sure that all employees take regular workstation assessments to ensure that health and safety regulations are met.

It is well known that the main risks of working long hours with display screen equipment (DSE) are neck and back pain, decreased productivity and high levels of stress. There is no real short term risk to those who use display screen equipment extensively, however, risks can become serious in the long run if proper procedure is not followed. When employees set up their workstation correctly in terms of ergonomics and take regular breaks, risks can be avoided.

Workstation assessments can be hugely beneficial in terms of reducing injury in the work place. Workstation Assessments take into account the design of the workstation, the design of the office and the users role in the company to help reduce risks when using display screen equipment.

The purpose of having a workstation assessment is to assess a workstation and find any issues that may affect poorly on health. Once problems are identified, solutions can be made in order to improve the workstation. Workstation assessments make sure that workstations are set up safely and in line with health & safety legislation. Workstation assessments can also help find many improvements, this could be anything from ensuring you use an external mouse and keyboard to ensuring that your wrists are in line with your forearms. As well as workstations improving the health and wellbeing of staff, they also aid in reducing health and safety litigation.

Guidelines have been set by the government in relation to workstation assessments under Health and Safety Regulations 1992 and the Health and Safety at Work Act. These guidelines help those who spend long hours using display screen equipment (DSE) from potential injuries at work. All employers must make sure meet the health and safety regulations and must take into account any employees who they think could be affected by any activities they undertake during the working day.

The guidelines set out by the government state that all businesses of any size must carry out an assessment of workstations used by their employees. All workstations must meet the stated specification, in order to allow employees to adjust and use their workstation without any risks to health and safety.

The guidelines also state that employers must take the daily routines of their employees into account so that they can set sufficient breaks throughout the working day. Employees don’t need to take a break away from work entirely, but should refrain from using any type of display screen equipment. 

In Ireland an individual decided to take their employer to court for failing to asses their workstation. The High Court awarded €16,000 to an individual after their employer, Focus Ireland failed to risk assess a workstation. Failure to asses the plaintiff’s workstation helped contribute to the development of a “chronic inflammatory condition”.

Damages were awarded to the plaintiff for “pain and suffering” for one year.

In the High Court, the Judge awarded compensation to the employee as her workstation was overheated as it was adjacent to a radiator, and this had helped contribute to the development of a “chronic inflammatory condition”.

At her original workstation she was open to extreme levels of heat. This workstation was not inline with health and safety regulations and the court heard that Focus Ireland failed to assess the workstation, which led to the plaintiff using the original workstation for an extended period of time.

The Plaintiff won the court case and was given compensation for a year of suffering, giving a total of €16,000.

This goes to show how failing to follow health and safety legislation, which regulates workstation assessments can lead to serious health and safety litigation, which can have devastating financial implications. Simply organising regular workstation assessments for employees can help eliminate any health and safety litigation.

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