A Guide to Safe Practice in Art & Design

6.6   Computers and Visual Display Units (VDUs)

The risks associated with the occasional use of computers in art and design education are thought to be very low. Concerns are being expressed, however, in relation to very low-frequency radiation, eye disorders and posture-related stresses. Teachers need to be aware that some photosensitive pupils may have an attack of epilepsy triggered by use of the VDU. Such cases are rare, but as the use of VDUs increases it is sensible to take simple precautions.

The image on the display screen should be clear and stable. Adequate, but not excessive, illumination should be provided, and harsh contrasts in background lighting should be avoided to prevent glare and distracting reflections - avoid placing the computer in direct sunlight or against a bright window, as this will reduce the clarity of the screen image and cause unnecessary eyestrain.

Posture is important. Seating should be comfortable and adjustable. There should be sufficient space to allow postural changes. Ensuring adequate support and not allowing pupils to sit for long periods without a break should avoid back strain. The operator should sit at a reasonable distance from the screen - one metre seems to be a minimum for most people.

The work surface should allow a flexible arrangement of equipment, stability, low reflection and adequate space for hand support. It should be non-reflective in line with the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations www.hse.gov.uk/lau/lacs/16-1.htm. There should be adequate workspace around the unit and the environment should be kept clean and dust free. Cables and connections should be kept clear of possible interference, checked regularly and placed so that accidental contact is avoided. Fit a power surge protector and avoid using extension leads where possible - avoid trailing leads at all times.