Computer health and safety

There are a number of physical health and safety matters to consider when using technology devices within schools including use of wireless networks, ergonomics, using interactive whiteboards and projectors and the risk of photosensitive epilepsy.

Safe location and supervision of computers in schools

Internet access for pupils in schools should be available on computers that are in highly-used areas of the school such as classrooms, libraries, study areas, computer laboratories and media-centres.

Computer screens should be visible to other people circulating in the area and while using the Internet at school, pupils should, where possible, be supervised.

However, when appropriate, pupils may be given permission to use systems independent of staff supervision. In all cases, pupils should be reminded, through visible notices, of their responsibility to behave in line with the school code of practice. 

Posture - ergonomics

The University of the West of England has provided guidance on safe computer use to ensure that computers are used with a correct posture by ensuring that the chair, keyboard, screen and mouse are properly set up and positioned.

Interactive whiteboards and projectors

All interactive whiteboards and other data projectors, if misused, have the potential to cause eye injury, particularly if children stand in front of the beam to give presentations.  Simple guidelines should be provided to ensure that:

  • no one should stare directly into the beam of the projector
  • when entering the beam, users should not look towards the audience for more than a few seconds
  • users keep their backs to the projector beam when standing in it
  • children are supervised at all times when a projector is being used

Photosensitive epilepsy

Using a computer is unlikely to be a problem for people with photosensitive epilepsy as the screen flicker is higher than the rate that triggers epilepsy. However, to make sure that any possible risk is kept to an absolute minimum, it is important to consider both the type of software and the display screen.

Epilepsy Action offers more detailed advice.

Wireless Local Area Networks (WLAN)

The former Health Protection Agency (now Public Health England) advised that there is no consistent evidence of health effects from radio frequency exposures below guideline levels and therefore no reason why schools and others should not use WiFi (Wireless Fidelity) equipment.

Guidance on WiFi radio waves and health was published on 1 November 2013 by Public Health England, an executive agency of the Department of Health in the UK, and may be accessed on the Public Health England website.

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