What is a computer workstation?
A computer workstation is a workplace located in a spatial area of the work system and equipped with computer monitors and other work equipment. (§ 2 paragraph 5 workplace regulation)
Until December 2016, employees who work exclusively at VDUs were specially protected by the German Ordinance on the Protection of Work with Visual Display Units (BildscharbV). Today, the ordinance is part of the Workplace Ordinance (ArbStättV) as Section 6 “Measures for the Design of Display Screen Equipment Workplaces”.
A computer workstation is usually equipped with:
- a visual display unit
- additional devices, such as PC, printer, scanner
- input devices, such as mouse, keyboard
- other work equipment, such as document holder, table, chair, mousepad
- and with the immediate working environment
Employees who spend a substantial part of their working time at a visual display unit are also referred to as computer workers or employees at computer workstations.
Ergonomics at the computer workstation
Working at a computer screen is stressful for the body (especially the eyes, muscles and spine) if the workplace does not meet specific ergonomic requirements:
- Table, chair, screen, keyboard and document holder must be movable and individually adjustable by the employee. For smaller persons, a footrest may be necessary if the table is not height-adjustable.
- Drawings on the screen must be sharp, sufficiently large and flicker-free.
- Depending on the screen size, the viewing distance must be 50 to 80 cm.
- There must not be any significant differences in brightness between the screen and its surroundings, and there must be no reflections on the screen.
- The suitable viewing direction is parallel to the window front.
- The software should be ergonomically designed (user-friendliness, error robustness), to avoid psychological stress.
Specificity of mobile computer workstations
Portable display screen equipment for mobile use that is not regularly used at a workplace does not have to meet Annex 6 Workplace Ordinance requirements.
Working with mobile devices for long periods puts much more strain on the eyes (screen size and viewing distance), the hands (small or virtual keyboard) and the back (forced posture on the lap, due to unsuitable workplaces in cafés, hotels, trains) than working at an ergonomically designed screen workstation.
Suppose for operational reasons, and the mobile device must also be used at an office workstation. In that case, the device should be connected to an external monitor, mouse and keyboard to ensure an ergonomic sitting posture during work.
The health risk of the computer workstation
Around 18 million Germans have computer and office workplaces – and the trend is rising. More than 40 percent of them spend more than seven hours looking at a screen. Sitting comfortably, especially in combination with VDU work, poses health risks for employees.
Many employees complain about permanent or recurring complaints in the back, neck and shoulder area and eye complaints and headaches. In the long term, VDU work can lead to chronic damage, such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes or musculoskeletal problems.
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