What Makes a Good DSE Assessor?

Health & SafetyI have been discussing this topic with clients, specifically around the question ‘must they be medically qualified?’. In recent years, particularly in the public sector, there has been a tendency to include DSE (Display Screen Equipment) workstation assessments in an occupational health (OH) contract because it is believed that an OH background qualifies an assessor to understand the medical requirements and, therefore, to provide the best advice.

I disagree!

Closeup portrait of a happy senior man working on a computer

Whilst the medical background is almost certainly an asset, an understanding of available products is essential. This is not just about knowing that X is a good chair or Y is a good mouse but knowing how to specify a particular variant of an appropriate product and ’what works with what’. As OH contract fees are squeezed and training is neglected, an OH qualification is simply not enough. The steady stream of orders we receive for wrongly specified chairs, incompatible mice or unviable product combinations is proof of this.

Talking to friends and competitors in the industry, all ergo product suppliers have the same experience. By contrast, some of my own staff (and those of my competitors) have no medical background but an enormous range of assessment experience, training and product knowledge.

In a bid to address this ongoing issue, we regularly offer free product advice and training to OH companies and individuals but not enough take it up.

Do you agree? Are you an OH professional who doesn’t need training? Or an OH professional  who would dearly love your employer to provide more product knowledge? Or an experienced assessor with no formal medical background? Please continue the discussion by adding your comments below.

9 Responses to What Makes a Good DSE Assessor?

  1. Guy Osmond says:

    More really useful feedback – thanks Roy. I try to be a bit contentious when I write these blogs but, so far, people are agreeing with me!

  2. Roy Cochran-Patel says:

    Great topic Guy! I hold an MSc in Health Ergonomics but am not a clinician – this has never had a negative impact on my ability to get the right solution. In this, I agree with you, a good DSE assessor does not need medical training. I have worked with OH specialists who find DSE’s a bit intimidating because they do not understand the equipment…they know the medical conditions but that is not enough.

    As you point out, training is key. I agree with Neil, a basic understanding of the musculoskeletal system and some of the more common complaints relating to DSE work is extremely beneficial. Understanding posture and the risks associated with, for example poor posture or wrists flexed / resting on the edge on the desk…All important stuff.

    A good DSE assessor understands how the body is affected by poor posture and poorly adjusted equipment. They should also have a good understanding of what equipment is available and in which circumstances a certain mouse, chair or keyboard would be beneficial. I have seen plenty of people who have been assessed and a new chair recommended when in reality teaching the end user how to use their existing chair would be more than suitable.

  3. Nigel Heaton says:

    I think a good DSE assessor needs a basic understanding of anatomy and physiology plus why people can get harmed. They must understand their own limits. They need a knowledge of solutions and an understanding the importance of fitting the product to the person. All this can be trained relatively easily. They need to be a good listener, empathetic, given sufficient time to engage and be able to probe beyond the obvious. So select your assessor a with those personality traits then train them.

    I speak as someone who has undertaken a few assessments and trained a few people.

    • Guy Osmond says:

      Thanks Nigel. The observation about the right personality traits is an especially valid one. We use psychometric assessment as part of our recruitment process and look for empathy in particular when employing assessors. Empathetic types are good listeners and respond well to training. It’s why I don’t do assessments!

  4. […] We have been discussing this topic with clients, specifically around the question ‘must they be medically qualified?’. In recent years, particularly in the public sector, there has been a tendency to include DSE (Display Screen Equipment) workstation assessments in an occupational health (OH) contract because it is believed that an OH background qualifies an assessor to understand the medical requirements and therefore, on this basis alone, to provide the best advice. I disagree! For my thinking and further observations – and to join in the discussion, please click here. […]

  5. Paul Eccles says:

    I’ve been doing workstation assessments for around ten years, since I completed the Ergonomics in Practice and Management of MSDs courses. I think there are several factors that are needed in helping people with workstation afflictions – training (and keeping up to date with new practices) to get to understand of the human body and how the different components work and interact, knowledge of what solutions are available and how they work, practical experience and a sympathetic ear. In a previous job our OH Practitioner would refer work related MSD investigations to me and when I felt I was out of my depth, I would refer on to a professional ergonomist. I find the trick to avoid problems in the first place is to teach people what their chairs can do, how to sit properly and how to set-up their workstations. Unfortunately these days people are ‘thrown’ in front of a computer and expected to get on with it.

    • Guy Osmond says:

      Couldn’t agree more Paul, especially with your last sentence! Our Posture Guidance at http://www.ergoergo.info addresses the set-up training issues and has been used by thousands of people over many years. I am still amazed at how many individuals find the contents a revelation. I have been talking recently about the need for a paradigm shift: many employers (even the most caring ones) look to fix people when they are broken. We need to try much harder to stop them breaking in the first place! Proper assessment, proper training and a more holistic approach will ensure a healthier workforce and, most importantly, a more productive one.

  6. OH professional with additional DSE Assessor training. Got to agree, it is the quality of the training in the subject that is important not the background . I know many OH qualified nurses who will not give advice on equipment as they do not feel competent. They will advise management to contact a supplier for more advice. However i think all OH people should be able to take the appropriate measurements for a chair so that the supplier has a head start in bringing the right size demonstration/loan chair. Having said that in the last 10 years have been allowed to do few assessment, seem to be confined to a desk myself doing case management

    • Guy Osmond says:

      Thanks Diane – We all have our knowledge and limitations but the trick is often to recognise the extent of the latter. We work very successfully with many occupational health professionals but encounter others who are clearly being required to operate a long way out of their comfort zone. I wonder if this is pressure created by their employer or maybe a case of not knowing what they don’t know?

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