Australia has some of the most innovative and interesting examples of ergonomics engineering in practise – both historically, recently and right now. Ranging from some of the most functional (yet aesthetic) building designs through to height-adjustable desks, Dohrmann is proud to have used a broad range of specialty engineering experience to deliver measurable improvements and outcomes for safety, functionality, and productivity.

1. A work space for the 21st century

The National Australia Bank’s eye-catching new headquarters at Victoria Harbour, Docklands (Victoria), is at the cutting edge of 21st century workplace design, and the building has been designed specifically with human interaction and communication in mind. Everybody gets a desk with a view – there are no private offices, and a multitude of meeting place styles.

From whatever vantage point, there is the visible signs of workplace hustle and bustle, which has resulted in more open communication (less email!) and increased productivity. As project ergonomists, Dohrmann Consulting worked on defining six work styles for office teams – marrying furniture, high-tech office equipment, layout and processes to a wonderful multi-level, productive workspace.

Now we’re helping the Westpac Bank move several thousand of their staff into a sparkling new building in central Sydney. The ergonomics brief was to ensure that everybody’s workstation and workgroup meets exacting standards of comfort, safety and efficiency. Research and consultation has again identified several discrete work styles, and work clusters are being developed to match them, as well as accommodating the latest electronic and storage technologies.

2. Customer service

Dohrmann Consulting prepared advice on the ergonomic profiling of customer service points at betting retail stores, where interactive contact between the selling agent and the customer involves touch screens, pads, cash security, ticket issue and slip reading under tight constraints of urgency.

With improved efficiencies, customers now have the opportunity to place their bets right up until the horses “jump”, nationwide.

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3. Training people to look after themselves

Two city-based organisations – one state government and the other a public company – engaged Dohrmann Consulting to assess the ergonomic standards of their multi-floor offices. In each case, our advice has been to take ergonomics safety and compliance an extra step, and become the trainers.

Dohrmann facilitated this training in custom-designed programs to meet the respective organisations’ needs. Training included presentation style instruction through to small workgroups, and included testing and questionnaires on comfort, layout and workflow. Each person was then followed up with personal visit and tutorial addressing their needs. This ensured they had adequate knowledge to attend to their own needs in the future.

These projects have added permanent value to the knowledge and skills base in each organisation.

4. Food Distribution

A national snack food distributor engaged us to investigate and advise on the design of the floors and steps of delivery vans, with the specific aim of reducing slip risks for each driver/salesman. We have been involved in a number of truck cabin designs, however, this was the first time our primary focus was the back end of the vehicle. We were able to source excellent surfacing materials and designed new adhesive warning signs.

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5. Theatres and Concert Halls

The beautiful shimmering sets we see at the opera, the ballet or the theatre can actually be very heavy, and they are usually shifted manually by stage “mechanists” in difficult and time-constrained conditions.  We examined systems to re-engineer the design of sets to help them be moved safely and quickly.

6. The ergonomics of parking fines

We have helped parking officers in several municipalities learn to ergonomically use their hand-held ticket-issuing equipment to minimise the incidence of incurring strain injuries or discomfort. Through this training process, Dohrmann developed and implemented some modifications to the systems to suit individual requirements. The biggest challenge was arranging safe work at night, in the absence of back-lit facilities on the equipment.

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7. Full-on height-adjustable desk design

We designed a new multi-purpose interview desk for one of the larger Commonwealth departments. The “K” desk environment was carefully considered: partitions, a counter, windows and storage. The K desk is based on sound engineering principles. It has three thin, strategically-positioned hydraulic cylinders and one small mechanical pump which is used to position the desk at its required height. The height adjustment mechanism can raise and lower the fully-loaded desk (including its return) with little effort. The K has been well received, and is now being built by three companies and installed in a multitude of locations.

8. Air Traffic Controllers

Dorhrmann Consulting provided extensive ergonomics input to the TAAATS Project – Australia’s mega-million dollar investment in an advanced air traffic control system for the next decade.The work led to an award-winning console. Lighting, displays, seating and layout – a critical job, where rigorous ergonomics is centrally important. We continue to support air traffic control work through numerous projects, all with heavy ergonomics content.

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9. Training

Our training assignments have always been with a variety of industry groups. Topics include ergonomics, safety/risk management, posture, lighting, furniture selection. The most popular topic has been “Strain – the invisible hazard”. There is a growing awareness in office-based ergonomics that ergonomics cuts across the full hierarchy of the organisation, affecting everybody in the office from the receptionist to senior level management.

10. The Law

We conduct many investigations for both plaintiffs and defendants in personal injury cases, and crime. Aside from the great focussing-of-the mind effect induced by cross-examination in court, litigation experience equips us to better advise employer clients of their legal obligations.

What the courts determine as “appropriate standards of care” is something all safety managers need to be up-to-date on. Cases we have been involved in include:

  • A carpenter who injured his back rotating a heavy bar table whilst fitting out the members’ bar in Government House, Canberra (lesson: there is simple equipment which should be made available to rotate heavy item such as these).
  • A forklift driver injured in the neck and back by constant bumping over rough ground (lesson: replace solid tyres at the recommended intervals; don’t allow neck-injured people to work in jobs where they have to crane and look upwards repeatedly; and install proper vibration-isolating seats).
  • A nurse slipped on some spilt cereal while serving breakfast (lesson: don’t let erratic patients walk around – and interestingly, we now know the difference in traction between milk and water, and the different effects of various floor polishes) “.

We have given lengthy evidence in murder cases, in fatal vehicle accidents, and in accidents where charges were laid.  The ergonomics bit is usually ”was such and such possible?”  “How could such and such happen?”.

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