The importance of ergonomics in a control center

ergonomia

Respecting ergonomic guidelines is one of the keys to design a good control center, monitoring center or control room.

Studying visual ergonomics so that the operator can be aware of their monitors and a videowall in a healthy way, providing a good chair for 24×7 operating environments or good ergonomic supports for visual devices are three of the fundamentals that make a installation a healthy place. Likewise, GESAB designs its control consoles taking as a reference the most exhaustive ergonomic studies; our motto is “action creates form”, in such a way that GESAB solutions are created based on the needs of operators and in order to ensure their health while they work.

Today we suggest you read the extract from a study on ergonomics carried out by the Mexican ergonomics specialist José Rénan López Atondo.

Applied Ergonomics

Industrial ergonomics understood as a field of knowledge that intervenes in the field of production is relatively new in Spain; new due to little knowledge of it and its application, but it has been developed and applied in some large companies whose corporate headquarters are outside our country. However, every day through the dissemination in congresses, meetings and courses, it begins to have demand and results in its application. This work aims to give a general overview of ergonomic practice, its method and techniques that, when applied, offer benefits to the worker, supervisor and, above all, in savings to the company, resulting in an improvement in the quality of life of all workers and of the company.

Ergonomics is defined as a body of knowledge about human abilities, their limitations, and characteristics that are relevant to design. Ergonomic design is the application of this knowledge for the design of tools, machines, systems, tasks, jobs and environments that are safe, comfortable and for effective human use. Thus, the term ergonomics derives from the Greek words ergos, work; and nomos, natural laws or knowledge or study. Literally “work study”.

Ergonomics has two main branches: the first one refers to industrial ergonomics, occupational biomechanics, which concentrates on the physical aspects of work and human capacities such as strength, posture and repetitions; the second discipline, sometimes refers to “Human Factors”, which is oriented to the psychological aspects of work, such as mental load and decision making.

Ergonomics falls within various professions and academic careers such as engineering, industrial hygiene, physical therapy, occupational therapists, nurses, chiropractors, occupational physicians, and sometimes with specialties in ergonomics. Ergonomics training can also be through courses, seminars and diplomas.

The following points are among the general objectives of ergonomics:

  • Reduction of occupational injuries and illnesses.
  • Reduction of the costs for the incapacity of the workers.
  • Increase in production.
  • Improvement of the quality of work.
  • Decrease in absenteeism.
  • Application of existing standards.
  • Decrease in the loss of raw material.

The methods by which the objectives are obtained are:

  • Appreciation of risks in the workplace.
  • Identification and quantification of risk conditions in the workplace.
  • Recommendation of engineering and administrative controls to reduce the identified risk conditions.
  • Education of supervisors and workers about risk conditions.

Description of the job

The work environment is characterized by the interaction between the following elements:

  • The worker with the attributes of height, width, strength, range of motion, intellect, education, expectations and other physical and mental characteristics.
  • The workstation comprising tools, furniture, dashboards and controls and other work objects.
  • The work environment comprising temperature, lighting, noise, vibrations and other atmospheric qualities.

The interaction of these aspects determines the way in which a task is performed and its physical demands. For example, a 72.5 kg load at 1.77 m, the male worker loads 15.9 kg from the floor generating 272 kg of force from the lower back muscles.

When the physical demand of the tasks increases the risk of injury as well, so when the physical demand of a task exceeds the capabilities of a worker an injury can occur.

Work risk factors

Certain characteristics of the work environment have been associated with injuries. These characteristics are called occupational risk factors and include:

Physical characteristics of the task (the primary interaction between the worker and the work environment).

  • Positions
  • Strenght
  • Repetitions
  • Speed/acceleration
  • Length
  • Recovery time
  • Dinamyc load
  • Segment vibration

Environmental characteristics (the primary interaction between the worker and the work environment).

  • Heat stress
  • Cold stress
  • Vibration towards the body
  • Lighting
  • Noise

The position

The position that the body takes when carrying out work is essential. There are postures associated with an increased risk of injury, bending over for example, in addition to the fact that it is generally considered that more than one joint that deviates from the neutral position produces high risk of injury. Examples:

On the wrist:

  • The position of extension and flexion are associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Ulnar deviation greater than 20 degrees is associated with an increase in pain and pathological findings.

In the shoulder:

  • Abduction or flexion greater than 60 degrees that is maintained for more than one hour / day, is related to acute neck pain.
  • Hands above or at shoulder height are associated with tendinitis and various shoulder pathologies.

In the cervical spine:

  • A 30 degree flexion position takes 300 minutes to produce acute pain symptoms, with a 60 degree flexion it takes 120 minutes to produce the same symptoms.
  • Extension with the raised arm has been linked to neck-shoulder pain and numbness, pain in the shoulder muscles decreases neck movement.

In the lower back:

  • The sagittal angle in the trunk has been associated with occupational alterations in the lower back.
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