Last reviewed 19 November 2020

The Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (CIEHF) has recently highlighted the ergonomic health risks associated with mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets, notebooks and laptops, and how best to manage these.

The way in which we work continues to change a great deal, and mobile devices have been at the centre of much new development in the workplace.

However, many businesses are uncertain about the best way to manage the risks that these devices bring with them.

Some of the questions arising include the following.

  • What are the risks in using mobile devices?

  • What can and should the employer do about the risks?

  • What are employers’ legal duties?

  • What should employees be doing about the risks?

The CIEHF has recently published some guidelines aimed at employers and employees who want to answer those questions and to proactively and effectively manage the ergonomic health risks associated with mobile working.

The use of mobile devices such as smartphones, phablets, tablets, laptops and notebooks, etc, for work purposes is intrinsic to mobile working and may take place in a range of locations.

The key ergonomic health risks, which the guidance addresses, are musculoskeletal injury and digital eye strain.

There are three key areas to consider when managing the ergonomic health risks of mobile working: namely equipment, expectations and education.

If employers provide equipment (ie mobile devices) for mobile working, and expect employees to use them during their work, they have legal duties to educate their employees on any associated health risks, to assess those risks, and to provide additional equipment to help control the risks.

Employees also have a legal duty to follow instructions and training, and to use equipment provided to them for the purpose of managing and reducing risks.

For detailed advice on how to ensure the safe use of mobile devices, including risk assessment templates, see the Mobile Devices topic.