Workplace Assessments & Mental Health – Why you need more than a DSE Assessment

Many employees will have a need for an ergonomic assessment at some point in their working lives. As an HR professional or manager, you may be familiar with the DSE Assessment (Display Screen Equipment Assessment). This is where the person’s desk, PC or laptop, screen, mouse, chair, phone and other equipment are ergonomically arranged in order to put the least amount of stress on a person’s musculoskeletal physiology. Workplaces around the country have DSE Assessments on a regular basis as is required by the Health & Safety Executive.

But a DSE Assessment won’t answer every complaint an employee may have. A DSE Assessment can be done by different levels of practitioner, from a top Specialist down to a lower-level DSE assessor with no medical training. Quite often, mental health related issues arise during a DSE Assessment that may lead to further costs if you’re using a low-level assessor.

Mental health issues can increase the perception of pain and discomfort, yet a DSE assessor may not understand what to do with mental health information. They may mention it, leading you to make a further referral to occupational health. Although it depends on the case, if you’d had a Workplace Assessment, the costs to make another occupational health referral may be avoided. Let me explain.

The Workplace Assessment (WPA) is a multi-faceted onsite assessment for an employee and includes time between the clinician and management. It includes a DSE assessment, but also incorporates a one to one occupational health assessment of the employee that would normally take place in an OH clinic for an extra cost. During a WPA, the clinician comes to the worksite which allows both assessments to occur.

You get a fully comprehensive view of the issues, taking into consideration all aspects of job and worksite. The clinician can make on-the-spot adjustments, recommend upgraded equipment, and suggest ongoing accommodations. They can take photos to be included in their report and gain deeper insight.

Having a Workplace Assessment saves travel time and stress for the employee and allows management direct access to discuss the case with the clinician. This access would normally have to be done during a phone call for an additional cost, but in a WPA it is included.

Having access to the HR representative or manager is also important for a clinician during a Workplace Assessment. The clinician gains further insight and can produce a more comprehensive report.

The clinician conducting a Workplace Assessment is likely be a certified physiotherapist with an occupational health and an ergonomics degree. They can also be a certified occupational therapist or physician. They can discuss appropriate recommendations in the report. Taking into consideration how the employee’s mental health is affecting their perception of pain, they can advise further investigations or counselling. A basic DSE assessor may not be medically capable of offering this to you.

Workplace Assessments can also be industrial, meaning they can occur in a factory, manufacturing site, or construction site. We have cases where we’ve conducted a WPA in an elevator shaft, at heights, in a steel factory, outside with a gardener, and on an assembly line.

A specialist conducting a Workplace Assessment will take into consideration the manual handling aspects of a role, the ergonomics of the working system, as well as environmental hygiene concerns such as noise, air quality, heat, and how that affects the worker not only physically, but mentally.

This directly differs to an appointment at an occupational health clinic, where the only information the clinician has about the working environment has come from descriptions. It is more helpful and informative to view the worker performing their job functions. This allows the clinician to directly assess their fitness and the limitations of the working system and environment.

Collingwood Health conducts Workplace Assessments regularly. We work with clinically vetted associates throughout the country and can provide a workplace assessment pretty much anywhere. Our customers receiving WPAs also gain reports that provide important information should further investigations be required.

The Workplace Assessment report can be invaluable in proving an employer has done their due diligence, lowering instances of dispute, resulting in decisions favouring the employer. A WPA demonstrates to all parties that we understand the business needs, job demands, and the employee’s options in their role including:

  • Fitness for role
  • Assess for Reasonable adjustments to role & ergonomic support
  • Identify risk management strategies
  • Advice on environmental and/or ergonomic equipment support
  • Confirm temporary and potential permanent restrictions
  • Provide realistic phased and paced return to work options
  • Disability access and self-help – health management
  • Evidence for OHP Ill health retirement assessment / fitness for work / exposure control
  • Appropriate Advice leaflets. Apps, web links, manual handling training advice, condition management

If an occupational health provider has recommended a Workplace Assessment, you may want to ask what it includes. If it’s just the DSE Assessment be aware that you may require further investigations if further issues such as mental health are noticed. You should get costs for the full scope Workplace Assessment instead of just the DSE assessment. If they aren’t able to provide a full Workplace Assessment, seek a provider that can and one that is using certified medical practitioners in their delivery of this service.

To discuss Workplace Assessments with a member of Collingwood Health’s referral team, please contact us. We’re happy to discuss the process with you and the qualifications of our clinicians.

Nichole Humphrey is the Sales & Marketing Manager at Collingwood Health. She has managed occupational health service delivery for Collingwood Health, and works to ensure their processes and procedures meet customer expectation.