How to improve control room performance through health?

Al Ula control room

The main efforts of any company that designs and implements a control centre should be centred in the health and wellbeing of the operators.

All the services, products and even the way the architects and engineers handle the project management should be focused in keeping wellness, health, ergonomics and comfort of the operators in a good condition, thereby, the improvement in performance and productivity results will reflect in the results of the company.

The main pathologies that appear more frequently in the control room industry are visual, muscular, and lumbar, which affect the daily activities of operators. Consequently, a high rate of absenteeism occurs thus affecting the workflow and training necessities of organizations. Technical furniture and ergonomics are overriding to avoid these situations.

There are specific guidelines which help achieving a healthy control room design. The most important and complete standard to be considered in the design and implementation of a critical environment is the ISO 11064 which guides all the way from the illumination, acoustics, space usability, visual ergonomics, part of the furniture and other important factors.

New design trends

Since 2020, the world is step by step going towards a new situation, a new reality that will change everything we knew, in which control rooms will be conceived in a different way with new design trends that place people as the centre of the attention of architects and designers.

The pandemic situation has propitiated important changes that will remain as concepts and work policies that look for the improvement of people’s life and health inside control rooms. That is why a balance must be achieved between functionality and the mentioned factors like the well-being and safety of the users.

In order to achieve that balance, it is basic that during the design stage the attention is put in the tasks and workflow that will be monitored on the control room. GESAB’s team is formed by certified engineers, architects and designers that always work closely to each customer to know every detail about the project. Integration of audio-visual and technology systems, visual excellence, optimized operation, flexible deployment and management, security and reliability are some points that must go through during layout development. Related to audio-visuals, there are basic architectural design considerations like a good free height, space between the video wall and the first line of operators or a minimum viewing distance which are relevant.

Importance of illumination, acoustic and air quality

Going forward, the illumination in control centres is very important as these spaces are closed and confidential where natural illumination is not possible often. The best practice for a common design should pay attention to avoid reflections using indirect light and include intensity regulation. What is more, considering that workflow is 24/7 it is essential to pay attention to the natural human cycles using natural light when possible or temperature colour and contrast controls.

In terms of acoustics, noise is one of the most difficult problems to solve in a critical environment. Density, collaboration, equipment, and many other factors cause noise making work difficult. One of the recommendations that GESAB does when designing a control room is a correct design of partitions to avoid sound communication between different spaces or the use of sound absorbing materials in some areas.

The air quality is currently the most important topic to improve safety and health in work environments. This point has become remarkable due to the actual pandemic, but it will be as much important to avoid the contagion of every winter’s common flu. Statistics show that in large cities outdoor air quality is not good because of the pollution levels, but, surprisingly, indoor air quality can be even poorer, between 2 to 5 times. Combined this factor with that people spend around 90% of work time indoors, the main key challenge is air renovations that can be solved by correct air conditioning design or by quality air purifiers.

The more frequent air renovations happen the better air quality will be, therefore, less possibility of infection. Besides, GESAB recommends indoor air quality monitoring, control and possible modification.

Summarizing, the materials must be chosen conscientiously to succeed when thinking on acoustics, illumination, air quality or overall result of the control room. For example, choosing bactericidal and easy to clean materials in reachable places would be able to push further the safety and health in work environments.

Choosing the correct ergonomic furniture and supports

A correct combination of technologies and equipment can benefit the comfort of the operators thus reducing possible errors. For example, choosing fine pixel in a direct LED video wall combined with ultrawide monitors will help the operators to have better visual ergonomics as well as using a Dynamic KVM systems, like GESAB DeskWall, with a single keyboard and mouse to control all applications, will improve their performance and working conditions.

Three key aspects to succeed in the correct design of a control room are: technical furniture, ergonomic chairs and monitor supports. These two accessories for the control console affect directly in a positive or negative way the comfort and health of the operators. Therefore, including high quality ergonomics is a must in a 24/7 environment where intensive critical tasks are carried out.

Monitor supports provide ergonomic adaptation by being able to regulate height, tilt, position, depth and rotation of the screens. Its correct angle of view with the video wall will reduce constant movements of the neck thus decreasing the possibility of illness. But it is important not to forget that the best practices in ergonomic adjustments for an operator include positioning the displays at a certain distance from the eyes, depending on resolution and size.

Another important factor is the space left to the operators that allows them to reach to commonly used tools by using the correct ergonomic chair and control console size and shape improving their comfort. In such a way, the implementation of height-adjustable workstations may contribute to improving the health of people and they led to a positive effect on perceived comfort, energy, health, productivity, satisfaction, stress and the state of mind in general because they allow to each person adapt the workplace to its need.

Each human has different body dimensions therefore possible regulation of those elements is critical.

Free space for the operators legs as specified in the EN-527 standard must be reviewed when choosing the correct furniture supplier. Surprisingly, very few control room furniture manufacturers are complying with the latest version of this requirement which asks for a 800 mm free leg space in width and depth. From the GESAB point of view its critical for the operators to have this freedom of movement to keep their health up correctly.

Operator’s health is one of the key elements to improve productivity and decision-making in any control room and this can be achieved through physical, mental and emotional situation improvement. The stress developed by health insecurity added to the stress of 24/7 critical tasks can have a very negative impact on worker’s health.

Therefore, GESAB is a strong defender that an investment made in ergonomics and health not only will reduce injuries or fatigue levels but also will improve work productivity optimizing the skills and job satisfaction of the operators by empowering them.

In addition, when renovating or implementing a control center it is also important consider errors that must be avoided so that the project is a success in all taspects: usability, ergonomics or specific needs.

>>> Do you want to learn more about how to be prepared for the future of critical environments? Our experts have elaborated a Whitepaper with trends for control centers in technology, architecture, operator’s workplace and their health and safety organization for the new era. Download here now and discover how to lead the change in control rooms. <<<

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