When the Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations were written (and amended in 2002), smartphones weren’t around. Legislation hasn’t kept up with technology yet – but, as an employer, you can’t ignore these advances in your policies.

Handheld devices are prevalent in the workplace – for a wide range of purposes, across the sectors. If your employees are using smartphones, or other portable/handheld DSE, for work purposes, they’re subject to regulation.

Specsavers Corporate Eyecare conducted a study, showing how much employees now use smartphones in their everyday working roles. 23% of employers said all workers now use smartphones, and 60% said at least half of their employees do. Only 7% said none of their employees use smartphones for their job.

So, more and more employees are using screens than ever before – classing them as a ‘screen user’, where they might not have been previously. Employers need to think about the potential impact on their eyes. Look at your optical care policies.

The length of time that DSE is in use is the deciding factor. Portable DSE is only excluded if it is not used for a prolonged period. There aren’t any ‘hard-and-fast rules’ on ‘prolonged’ use. But, it’s reasonable to conclude that portable equipment, used by an employee for a significant part of their normal work, would fall under the DSE Regulations.

This may relate to frequency of use, employees needing to apply high levels of attention and concentration to the DSE task, being highly dependent on DSE, or have little choice about using it.

In short, you now need to make sure that the use of smartphones and tablets forms part of company DSE policies.