Computer health and safety at work

Computer health and safety: task design and rest breaks


You must plan the activities of computer users so that they don't work for long uninterrupted periods on display screen equipment (DSE). You can do this through a combination of rest breaks and changes in work activity which allow users to change posture.

You also have a duty to tell employees about the importance of changing activities and taking breaks and to encourage them to do both. See what you need to do about health and safety.

Task design

Good design of the task can be as important as the right choice of furniture and equipment. Whenever possible you should:

  • design jobs so that employees have a mix of activities and some say over which tasks they perform and when
  • match staffing levels to workload so that individuals are neither overworked nor underworked
  • give employees some say in the way work is planned and carried out

Rest breaks

An employee's need for rest breaks will vary depending on the type of work they are doing and how intensely they are working. As a general rule however:

  • Short, frequent breaks are better than longer, less frequent ones. A five to ten minute break after 50-60 minutes' DSE work is better than a 15-20 minute break after two hours.
  • The employee should have some choice over when to take breaks.
  • Employees should be encouraged to do different tasks or activities during their break, ideally away from the workstation.