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Ergonomics. For some organizations it’s a matter of health and safety. For others it’s an issue of efficiency. Regardless, ergonomics is always a financial concern – particularly in highly technical operations where ergonomic upgrades to a control room require a much greater investment than a few keyboard trays.

Well-designed control rooms balance efficiency with ergonomics by fitting the surroundings and demands of the job to the capability of the operators. A key aspect of any successful ergonomic control room is the console – it is the piece of the puzzle that connects the operator to the technology and therefore has a significant impact on performance.

Justifying ergonomic changes can be challenging in even the best economic times. Managers will be more likely to commit to ergonomic improvements when they understand the economic benefits of the investment.

There is little question that ergonomic improvements result in greater comfort and improve the performance of operators monitoring very complex systems. However, management is more likely to judge these benefits by their financial return on investment (ROI) than their direct effect on operators.

The cost vs. benefits of incorporating an ergonomically designed console in the control room can be analyzed from three perspectives:

  • Regulatory compliance
  • Improvements to health and safety of workers
  • Increases in operator efficiency

Together, these ROI models can be used to demonstrate a direct correlation between ergonomic improvements and positive financial returns.

With this in mind, the international standard known as ISO 11064 provides guidance on ergonomic design of control centers. Primarily, the standard recommends taking top-down approach to designing the control room with the greatest emphasis being on human factors.

The standard takes into consideration the specialized tasks required in control rooms and outlines a process for achieving user-centered design, which reflects how operators interact with systems to perform various tasks in the control room environment. In complex technical environments such as control rooms, operator error can result in disastrous consequences.

Ergonomically designed control rooms optimize interfaces between operators and machines by taking into account the equipment used, the tasks required and fully recognizing the limitations of the operator to achieve greater productivity and reduce human error.

Furthermore, an ergonomically designed control room can improve flow and efficiency, requiring fewer operators to perform the same number of tasks without sacrificing the quality of work. This may result in financial gains due to reduced staffing costs.

Looking beyond the numbers, ergonomics is a good investment in improving the quality of life for workers. Operators that are more comfortable and better able to do their jobs will find greater satisfaction in their jobs, thus improving the morale of your organization. Happy workers are, after all, healthy workers.

Winsted is a proud sponsor of AMAG’s 12th annual Security Engineering Symposium to be held March 1-4, 2013 at The Loews Coronado Bay Resort in San Diego, CA. For more information about Winsted, please visit www.winsted.com.

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