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Ordinance on Work with Visual Display Units

The Ordinance on Work with Visual Display Units has been part of the Workplace Ordinance since its introduction.

What is the Display Ordinance on Work with Visual Display Units?

The Ordinance on Work with Visual Display Units (German: Bildschirmarbeitsverordnung (BildscharbV)) was an ordinance dealing with the safety and health of working with display screen equipment. It was formulated following Article 3 of the regulation to implement individual EC directives for the EC framework directive on occupational health and safety.

The ordinance expired on December 3, 2016. Since then, it has been part of the Workplace Ordinance (ArbStättV). Section 6 of the regulation defines the design of visual display terminals.

In principle, the VDU ordinance applied in all companies where employees perform a permanent activity on display screen equipment.

Obligations of the employer according to the VDU ordinance

According to the German Ordinance on Work with Visual Display Units (Bildschirmarbeitsverordnung), employers had to ensure that the equipment provided, the activity itself and the workplace comply with occupational safety standards.

To this end, the computer workstation conditions had to be examined in terms of safety and health and finally assessed in a risk assessment. The following risks were to be evaluated:

  • physical problems
  • psychological problems
  • deterioration of vision

In § 6 Ordinance on Work with Visual Display Units, the employees’ right to a visual examination and glasses was regulated. Employees under 40 years of age should have a routine inspection of their eyesight every five years. For employees over 40 years of age, the examination should be performed every three years.

The daily work routine according to the VDU ordinance

The § 5 dealt with the daily workflow of screen work. According to this, the employer’s task is to arrange the employees’ activities in such a way that the daily work at the screen is interrupted by other activities or by breaks.

This stipulation is intended to reduce the burden of work at the screen for employees. This provision can also be found in this form in the Workplace Ordinance Annex 6.1.

However, the legislator does not precisely define how the necessary breaks or other activities have to look like. Numerous companies, therefore, rely on so-called “mixed workplaces”. This means that work at the monitor alternates with less stressful activities, such as customer meetings or errands.

However, this is not possible in all companies and at all workplaces. Employees who have a pure screen workstation should take a break of 5 to 10 minutes after 50 minutes of intensive work at the monitor.

According to the ordinance on screen work, several short breaks are better than a more extended break to interrupt the rigid sitting posture and the fixation on the screen at regular intervals. A continuous activity of more than two hours on the screen is generally insufficient to ensure occupational safety.

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