Health and Safety Council guidance on the use of computers is so vague and outdated that several older universities are ignoring it and are jeopardising staff by classifying them as non-users, claims the Association of University Teachers. A union survey found that 16 institutions out of 43 which responded were ignoring guidance on the definition of users except for the time criterion -and interpreting this liberally.
"In one of the worst abuses, users were defined as staff using equipment for four or more hours per day or 20 or more hours per week for at least 30 weeks of the year," the union says. As a result many academics and administrators using computers, were not covered by the regulations.
The regulations are designed to ensure that work stations, both within institutions and at home, are checked for safety and that users are provided with training and information.
The union points out that research and publication are almost totally dependent on the availability of personal computers. It proposes that anyone who uses display screen equipment should be classified as a "user". This it believes is the only guaranteed way to avoid risks.