27 September, 2023
Innovations in information technology have triggered a new era of automation, central supervisory control, and more reliable processes. With the increasing demand for safer, more efficient, and reliable environments, control rooms have emerged as crucial hubs. They are responsible for monitoring, supervising, and controlling complex systems across various industries such as process manufacturing, transportation, security, and emergency services. This article delves into the unique challenges posed by control room activities and offers expert insights to optimise the ergonomic design and functionality of control centres.
Understanding the Significance of Control Rooms
Control rooms are at the forefront of managing intricate processes. They function to centralise the monitoring and control of geographically dispersed fixed assets, such as cameras on a road network or signals on a railway; the remote control of mobile assets, such as mining vehicles, aerial drones and driverless trains; and to control industrial processes from a safe distance such as chemical manufacturing and power generation. However, as the scale of automation increases, so do the potential consequences of equipment or human failures, making meticulous design imperative.
Applying Ergonomic Principles to Control Centre Design
To address the need for optimising both efficiency and safety, ergonomic principles play a pivotal role in control centre design. By incorporating ergonomic factors, designers can prioritise the well-being of operators while enhancing systems for technological and economic efficiency. Achieving this optimisation involves crafting solutions that harness the strengths of both humans and machines in a harmonious manner. From extensive experience in the design of control rooms, and with a careful understanding of the requirements and challenges of control rooms needs and operator demands, our ergonomic experts have formulated five top tips for effective ergonomic design of control centres.
Five tips for High-Quality Control Room Ergonomics
- User-Centred Design: There is no one size fits all method. Involve users in the design process to gain insights into their tasks, workflows, and needs. By placing operators at the centre of design discussions and gathering feedback throughout, the design can be tailored to enhance their experience and thus reduce the risk of workplace injury and the risk of operator error, for example, due to fatigue or inattention.
- Optimal Layout and arrangement: Embrace ergonomic principles in the design process such as the concept of the “reach zone” for frequently used items. Minimise screen glare and ensure clear lines of sight. Organise displays and equipment to reduce the need for constant head movement, fostering an efficient and streamlined layout. Optimising layout is critical to minimise the risk of repetitive strain injuries.
- Lighting and acoustics: Adequate lighting and sound management are crucial. Employ appropriate lighting that minimises glare on screens and prevents eye strain. Implement acoustic treatments to mitigate background noise and echoes, which can impact concentration and stress levels. Lighting design significantly impacts on sleepiness and vigilance which is crucial in control centres that operate over night. Similarly, noise negatively impacts on the clarity of verbal communication which risks operator error due to miscommunication.
- Adjustable furniture and equipment: Invest in furniture and equipment that can be customised to cater to individual operator preferences. Provide thorough guidance on proper usage and setup. Ergonomic chairs with lumbar support, adjustable monitor mounts, and adaptable keyboard and mouse configurations empower operators to tailor their workspace for comfort during extended shifts.
- Continuous Maintenance and Updates: After the control room becomes operational, maintain vigilance over ergonomic aspects. Regularly gather feedback from operators and remain open to adjustments based on their insights and evolving requirements. Stay current with advancements in ergonomics and technology, updating furniture, layout, and technology as needed.
ISO 11064 for Ergonomic Design of Control Centres
Design of control rooms are regulated under the International Organisation of Standardisation (ISO), which establishes ergonomic requirements, recommendations and guidelines for the design of workplaces in control centres. Our consultants have a thorough understanding of the ISO 11064 (Part 1-7) standard ensuring all aspects of control centres are taken into account with any design or recommendation
In conclusion, the advancements in information technology have elevated the significance of control rooms as central hubs for overseeing complex systems. By adhering to ergonomic principles and tailoring design to operator needs, control rooms can achieve optimal efficiency, safety, and comfort. The evolution of these spaces is a dynamic process that necessitates continuous monitoring, feedback incorporation, and adaptation to the ever-changing landscape of technology and ergonomic best practices.
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