Health and safety when using portable devices

Mobile devices

Tablets and mobile phones are used more and more in primary care. From accessing patient information during home visits to catching up on CPD credits, it's never been easier to stay updated and in touch. Nicola Mullineux, research co-ordinator from Peninsula Business Services, outlines the health and safety risks that can occur when using portable devices.

The Health and Safety (Display Screens Equipment) Regulations 1992 outline points to consider when using computer equipment, with the aim of minimising the risks of work-related health issues. The regulations were originally written for computers with visual display units, but it also applies to all portable devices such as laptops, mobile phones and tablets. Portable devices such as smart phones, tablets and notepads can be a very useful aid to mobile workers but they should never be supplied as an alternative to a desktop device where that is necessary. Used correctly, smart phones, tablets and notepad devices should not pose any significant risk to the user. However, it is easy to get into bad habits when using a portable device.

It is the employer's responsibility to ensure all steps have been taken to protect the health of visual display users at work. Workstation assessments should be done at a regular interval (once a year is generally regarded as suitable) and any concerns or observations noted in the employee's file. 

  • Always make sure that you are using the right tool for the right job; it not only protects the health of your workers but also maximises productivity and effectiveness. If a large amount of data needs to be inputted, a computer workstation should be used (not a laptop or tablet).
  • Avoid glare on the screen - you can do this by investing in an anti-glare protector or adjusting the display settings.
  • If you need to use the keypad for prolonged periods consider using a blue-tooth 'external keyboard', which provides a bigger keyboard to type on.
  • Use a light touch when interacting with the screen. 
  • Adjust the tablet settings to suit your vision. You can enlarge a webpage or text so it is easier to read.
  • The ideal position for a tablet is flat on a surface in front of you, or slightly angled towards you to ensure that your wrists are not in an awkward position. 
  • After 10-20 minutes' continuous use, take a short break to stretch your hands, shoulders and neck. You can relax your eyes by looking into the distance and blinking a few times. 
  • When reading from (as opposed to interacting with) a portable device, use a stand or tilt the tablet so you don't need to bend your head. 
  • Keep the screen clean using wipes that are specially formulated for tablet surfaces.
  • Before an employee starts to use a new portable device, an introductory session should be scheduled in to cover correct use of the equipment.

GROUPCARE Plus and Premium practices can benefit from access to the Peninsula 24-hour health and safety advice line, and the option to purchase the full employment law and health and safety package, at an exclusive MDU discount. To find out more visit themdu.com/groupcare

Further information and advice on the use of Display Screen Equipment can be found by visiting the HSE website.

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This page was correct at publication on . Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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