Wow, I finally get to talk about physical ergonomics

Working in human factors, I’m expected to know about and keep up with physical ergonomics stuff, even though my interest and work is mainly concerned with ‘neck up’ cognitive ergonomics. The IEHF Linkedin page recently had a link to an interesting article on trends in workplace design. While standing desks have been around for a while, it’s a timely reminder that there are potential significant health benefits from spending a significant part of the day on your feet.

Kill your desk chair and start standing

The article goes on to mention a growing trend for treadmill and walking machines at the desk. The phenomenon is also mentioned a lot in the current Neal Stephenson book, Reamde. Neal has a reputation as a futurist and predictor of trends as well as being a good thriller writer, so there’s a good chance that this might be heading to an office near you.

Varying your posture while working looks like it might be a good thing from all sorts of health perspectives, including both fitness and weight.

How about our operators then? As it happens, variable height desks are becoming more of a feature in control rooms too. Here’s an example of a control desk that can be set to any preferred height. The first picture has a raised desk and screens, the second, a seated configuration. All motorised.

I visited the control room on a number of occasions, and each time the desks were set differently. It was obvious that the operators were actively using this facility. When I talked to them about the value of the function, they were universally in favour.

I’m also seeing exercise machines in control rooms more and more. I’ve yet to see one in front of the screens, but it can only be a matter of time.

Finally, a quick plug. As you may have noticed, I don’t tend to specifically push ABB kit, but this is highly relevant to this blog. The ABB Extended Operator Workplace, amongst many other excellent features, incorporates variable height workstations. You can see it in action here

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About the author

Tony Atkinson

I lead the ABB Consulting Operational Human Factors team. I've spent over 30 years in the process industries, working in control rooms around the world, in the fields of ergonomics, control and alarm systems, control room design and operational and cultural issues such as communications, competency and fatigue. I've been blogging on diverse topics that interest me in the widest sense of 'human factors', all of which share the same common element, the 'Mk.1 Human Being' and their unique limitations, abilities and behaviours. I'll discuss the technical and organisational issues that affect safety and performance of these process safety operators and technicians and how this impacts control rooms and the wider plant. However learning comes from many places and you can expect entries about aviation, automotive, marine, healthcare, military and many other fields. Outside of work, I indulge in travel, food, wine and flying kites to keep myself moderately sane. Please feel free to post your comments on each post. Blog entries are posted with no set frequency. To ensure you don't miss out on the latest blog post, click the button below to subscribe to email alerts when a new blog has been posted.
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