Must a control console comply with ergonomic standards?

Consolas de control Achinsk Refinery

The new agile, collaborative and increasingly demanding work models with the efficiency of equipment and services lead us to rethink if the furniture adapts to the functional needs of the operators. It is common for the user to expect to obtain more gadgets and features in their workspace, with increasingly thin and imperceptible elements and in addition, that allows them to have mobility and willingness to work in practically any place without affecting their performance.

The perception that a high-tech control center should be a dark place with large heavy consoles in sight, various cabinets for monitors and equipment, endless drawers for stationery and elaborate finishes is gone. Nowadays the perception of broad, open and in sight clean spaces that allow the operator working from any position, designed with neutral colors and adequate lighting is the reality of critical environment users.

Thus, we have simpler spaces but with a greater number of gadgets and an operator who can not stop to assess whether or not the control console where he develops his work complies with the standards for the activity he performs. The weight of this analysis falls directly on who is in the prescription and supply part of the consoles to be integrated in the project, so the decision-making is not an easy tastk.

Can really be evaluated ergonomics on a console?

There are standards on ergonomics, as well as recommendatios to develop the best practices in different offices and critical environments. Daily opperation depends on its correct implementation to avoid that the user is uncomfortable for not having a space that responds to their needs. A reallity is that, for human eye, it could be difficult to identify wether or not a console complies with one regulation or another. Maybe, with the simple fact of standing on one side we could verify the height of the work envelope or when sitting and simulating an activity we can identify if the background is at least accurate, but it always is convenient to have a support guide where the minimum ergonomic requirements that must be met for a control console can be based.

Which are the key points of standards?

There are basic and easy to identify points when evaluating a console. To identify the best option that gives continuity to the model of work of the readers, we share delow a summary of the most relevants standards.

The UNE-EN ISO 11064: ERGONOMIC DESIGN OF CONTROL CENTERS standard is in itself a complete reference for control centers, but specifically for their design and functionality. It contains two sections that talk about the workplace and the components that influence in the functional and living space of the operator.

  • UNE-EN ISO 11064-4:2005. At this point, the corresponding design of the workspace of the critical space is addressed and it makes specific notes to its distribution and dimensions. It mainly considers sitting position workplaces that work with equipment that include display screens, although it addresses too those that allow standing postures.
  • EN ISO 11064-5:2008. This section presents ergonomic principles and contains dispositions and recommendations about indicators and controls, as well as their interaction, in the hardware and software design of the control centers.

The mentioned standard can be complemented by regulations for office furniture. The point of convergence between both standards is that a worker has similar characteristics and requirements in both environments, but it is necessary to indicate that what is contemplated in this standard would be the minimum to comply by a console that, as understood, has greater demands in all senses than a commom work table.

  • UNE-EN 527 (OFFICE FURNITURE). Office furniture. Work tables and desks. The points of the UNE-EN 527 standard are: EN 527-1: Dimensions, EN 527-2: Mechanical safety requirements and EN-527-3: Test methods for the determination of the stability and mechanical strength of the structure.

In the day-to-day activities carried out in a control room it is common to work with screens, either placed directly on the console, on a videowall or as a visual reinforcement. It is essential to remember that the information itself, how it is presented, how the operator receives it and the actions he will take from it, are a fundamental part in a critical environment.

  • UNE-EN ISO 9241-5: ERGONOMIC REQUIREMENTS FOR OFFICE WORK WITH DATA DISPLAY SCREENS. The essential ergonomic principes applicable to the requirements of the user, the design and dequipment for the workspaces intended for office tasks that use display screens are delimited.
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A step forward: regulatory compliance requirements

It is correct to think of the operator as the center of the action; putting ourselves in its place we can see first-hand wether or not a console is functional and ergonomically operational considerig the following:

  • The work envelope has a correct height to place the arms without them hanging or having a pressure on the wrists.
  • The monitor is at a distance where you can place the keyboard, a laptop and even a notebook without using your legs as support.
  • The living space allows to place all the equipment and work tools without sacrifying a correct posture and distance to the monitor.
  • The legs do not collide or stick with any element of the console or that sticks out of it.

A console MUST comply with ergonomic standard to guarantee operational continuity, the correct functioning of the work equipment and the functionality of a monitoring center, therefore it is always best to ask the manufacturer to give the current applicable certificates, tests, as well as the best practices that apply in the design of the consoles.

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