Safety Standards For Computer Monitors

In the late 1980s concern over possible health issues related to monitor use led Swedac, the Swedish testing authority, to make recommendations concerning monitor ergonomics and emissions. The resulting standard was called MPR1. This was amended in 1990 to the internationally adopted MPR2 standard, which called for the reduction of electrostatic emissions with a conductive coating on the monitor screen.

In 1992 a further standard, entitled TCO, was introduced by the Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees. The emission levels in TCO92 were based on what monitor manufacturers thought was possible rather than on any particular safety level, while MPR2 had been based on what they could achieve without a significant cost increase. As well as setting stiffer levels for emission it required monitors to meet the international EN60950 standard for electrical and fire safety. Subsequent TCO standards were introduced in 1995 and again in 1999.

Apart from Sweden, the main impetus for safety standards has come from the US. In 1993, VESA initiated its DPMS standard, or Display Power Management Signalling. A DPMS compliant graphics card enables the monitor to achieve four states: on, standby, suspend and off, at user-defined periods. Suspend mode must draw less than 8W so the CRT, its heater and its electron gun are likely to be shut off. Standby takes the power consumption down to below about 25W, with the CRT heater usually left on for faster resuscitation.

VESA has also produced several standards for plug-and-play monitors. Known under the banner of DDC (Display Data Channel), they should in theory allow your system to figure out and select the ideal settings, but in practice this very much depends on the combination of hardware.

EPA Energy Star is a power saving standard, mandatory in the US and widely adopted in Europe, requiring a mains power saving mode drawing less than 30W. Energy Star was initiated in 1993 but really took hold in 1995 when the US Government, the world\’s largest PC purchaser, adopted a policy to buy only Energy Star compliant products.

Other relevant standards include:

  • ISO 9241 part 3, the international standard for monitor ergonomics
  • EN60950, the European standard for the electrical safety of IT equipment
  • the German TUV/EG mark, which means a monitor has been tested to both standards, in addition to the German standard for basic ergonomics (ZH/618) and MPR2 emission levels.