20.11.2023 Labour law

Changes to OHS regulating computer work coming soon

On 17 November 2023, the regulation on health and safety at work in workstations equipped with screen monitors entered into force.  

The OHS rules for working on computers will change due to the entry into force of the Regulation of the Minister of Family and Social Policy of 18 October 2023 amending the regulation on health and safety at work in workstations equipped with screen monitors (Journal of Laws 2023, item. 2367). Annex to the Regulation sets out minimum requirements for health and safety at work and its ergonomics.  

New definition of workstation  

One of the key changes is the new definition of workstation. After the amendment, it is a space with: 

  1. basic equipment, including a screen monitor, keyboard, mouse or other input devices and software with user interface, 
  1. a chair and a table, 
  1. optional additional equipment, including disc station, printer, scanner, document holder and footrest. 

The new regulation also repeals section 2 paragraph 3 concerning a computer system, which was understood as a component of basic equipment and an additional workstation, together with software. Ordered terminology will facilitate the implementation of the new regulations.  

New OHS requirements – laptops and notebooks 

The Regulation of 18 October 2023 also lays down OHS rules when workers use portable systems such as laptops and notebooks. If these devices are used for at least half a daily working time, the employer shall provide the worker with: 

  • additional keyboard and mouse
  • a desktop screen monitor or stand ensuring that the screen is positioned to the top edge of the worker’s eyes. 

Important: these requirements also apply to apprentices and trainees. 

It is worth stressing, however, that the Regulation does not apply to portable systems that are not intended for use at a given workstation and are not used for at least half a daily working time. 

What minimum ergonomics requirements should workstations equipped with screen monitors meet? 

The Annex to the Regulation enumerates a number of requirements that should be met by workstations equipped with screen monitors. Examples of requirements: 

  • the positioning of the equipment elements should not force uncomfortable head and neck movements  
  • monitor that allows the screen to be tilted 
  • keyboard and mouse as separate elements of basic workstation equipment 
  • providing the right space to place the legs under the table top and to adopt a comfortable position and the possibility of changing it during work 
  • workstation equipped with a footrest at worker’s request  
  • lighting ensuring the employee’s visual comfort 
  • matt keyboard surface and contrasting and legible characters on the keyboard 

What health and safety requirements have been abandoned? 

The regulation relaxed the general OHS requirements for working with a computer. The legislator resigned, among others, from specifying detailed parameters of table height and width and adjusting the monitor position. The keyboard requirements have also been simplified.  

Does the new OHS Regulation apply to remote workers? 

The Regulation of 18 October does not make it clear whether the new rules also apply to remote workers. The changes to labour law introduced this year oblige employers to provide safe and hygienic working conditions for remote workers, as well as materials and tools necessary to perform remote work.  

The Regulation also does not mention whether the employer will be obliged to provide a desktop monitor at the place of remote work. It is also unclear whether the remote worker is entitled to an equivalent for the use of their own equipment if the employer is unable to cover the cost of purchasing such equipment. Therefore, the Regulation requires clarification of the employer’s obligations towards persons working remotely in workstations equipped with screen monitors. However, on the basis of the amended Labour Code, it can be assumed that the requirements laid down in the Regulation also apply to remote workers.  

Refundable contact lenses  

The new thing is the refund of contact lenses. Until now, the employer was obliged to provide employees with correcting glasses, in accordance with doctor’s recommendation, if the results of ophthalmological examinations carried out as part of preventive health care (e.g. during employee periodic examinations) showed the need to use them while working with a screen monitor. Now, the employee will be able to obtain a refund for the purchase of glasses or contact lenses. The amount of the refund is determined in the employer’s internal regulations.  

How much time do employers have to adapt their workstations to the new health and safety requirements? 

Although the legislation will enter into force on 17 November 2023, employers have 6 months to adapt computer-equipped workstations to the minimum OHS and ergonomics requirements set out in the Annex to the Regulation. The new rules must therefore be implemented by 17 May 2024. When creating new posts, the employer should immediately adapt the workstations equipped with computers to the requirements laid down in the Regulation of 18 October 2023.  

How will the OHS changes to workstations equipped with screen monitors affect employers? 

Changes to the legislation in this area are primarily associated with high costs. If the workstation equipment does not meet the requirements set out in the Regulation, organisations will have to purchase new furniture. The most expensive, however, may be to buy desktop monitors for people working with laptops. Although this is not mentioned in the Regulation, it is possible that employers will also have to update the occupational risk assessment and the principles of safe and hygienic work, including remote work, communicated to workers for signature. There are a lot of changes to be implemented, so employers should start preparing for their implementation as soon as possible and provide for the expenses related to providing employees with ergonomic workstations in their next year budgets.  

Labour law – see how we can help:

Magdalena Wilkoszewska Director of The Labour Law Department, Attorney-At-Law
TGC Corporate Lawyers
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