Ergonomics is the applied science of equipment design, intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort. To improve operator health, performance, and engagement in the workplace, mission-critical agencies should consider ergonomic recommendations when selecting console furniture.
In this installment of our three part series on ergonomics for the mission critical workplace, you’ll learn more about the standards and guidelines that drive ergonomic design. You’ll also discover why BIFMA’s Ultimate Test for Fit encourages console designers to consider special health and comfort considerations.
At the end of our article, you’ll have the opportunity to download the full whitepaper, “Finding the Balance: Ergonomics for Multi-Monitor, Mission Critical Environments.
Leading Ergonomic Guidelines for Computer Workstations
While the ergonomics field, like all sciences, is fluid, the specific Guidelines were developed from anthropometrics (statistical body dimension data) and reports of associated work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Ergonomics account for many aspects of operator comfort including the Human Machine Interface (HMI), reach zones for common work tools, and peripheral comfort factors including lighting, temperature, and noise abatement.
Console furniture workstation setup falls into the category of ergonomics. There are two primary ergonomic Guidelines that drive office furniture design:
- Business Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) ANSI/BIFMA G1, 2013 Ergonomics Guideline
- Human Factors Engineering Society (HFES) ANSI/HFES 100 – 2007, Human Factors Engineering of Computer Workstations
Further, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines ergonomics as “the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of the working population.”
The BIFMA and HFES Guidelines include many user-comfort related factors and recommend evaluating each operator with what BIFMA calls “The Ultimate Test for Fit” to determine if a computer user has been able to effectively adjust the furniture for comfort.
Ergonomic Guideline Limitations
It is important to recognize that the ergonomic Guidelines, including commonly cited BIFMA G1-2013 and HFES 100-2007, were developed for regular office applications where most users have a single monitor and most desks are intended for a single user. References to “multiple monitors” in these Guidelines assume two monitors side-by-side as evidenced by accompanying descriptions and diagrams within the Guidelines. From this, it is clear that the Guidelines are not based on measurements for users sitting at a desk in front of a large set of monitors that are four to six wide or stacked, as commonly found in mission-critical environments.
Neither BIFMA nor HFES has developed specific, relevant Guidelines for technology-intensive applications such as 911 dispatch centers or operations control rooms. Since there are no published Guidelines for control room environments, console furniture designers use BIFMA and HFES as an ergonomic foundation.
The need to account for unique conditions not addressed within the Guidelines explains the presence of the BIFMA “Ultimate Test for Fit.” As a best practice, this encourages furniture designers to coalesce body posture, health data and comfort data to create furniture with scale and adjustment ranges that allow the broadest population to achieve postural health and general comfort.
Ergonomics and Mission Critical Consoles
When considering console furniture options, mission-critical agencies should consider these console-related Guidelines and factors:
- The worksurface (input device platform) should have a 22.6” to 48.7” height range accommodating the 5th percentile female sitting to the 95th percentile male standing.
- Ease of periodic adjustments to the standing posture should be accomplished with a single control and without altering the monitor position relative to the input devices.
- The worksurface shape and size must allow comfortable reach to all console controls and work tools.
- The monitor focal depth should be adjustable and determined by user preference, with a recommendation for no less than 15.7” and no more than 29.5” from the operator’s eyes.
- Vertical monitor viewing angles should be adjustable to meet at least the recommended secondary viewing angle of +5° to -50°.
- There should be adjustment options for the horizontal monitor viewing angle (ideal viewing angle is within 40° from straight ahead).
- There should be adjustable perpendicular monitor viewing/ monitor tilt (top of monitor should not be closer to the eyes than the bottom of the monitor).
Additional Console Ergonomics Considerations
Movement in the Workplace
In addition to providing furniture and equipment adjustment, and providing space so work tools and controls are within easy reach, it is important that operators engage in postural change throughout the day. This is best achieved with periods of sitting alternated with periods of standing during the course of each work shift.
Multiple studies reveal that sitting for prolonged periods contributes to long-term health issues including musculoskeletal pain, weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease. Periodic standing has proven to increase circulation, decrease joint discomfort, and contribute to maintaining a healthy weight, thereby improving overall health and wellbeing.
Choosing a console that makes it easy for the operator to transition from sitting to standing will encourage positive behavior and allow the operators to realize the short-term and long-term benefits of periodic posture change.
Since HFES and BIFMA Guidelines were written for single-monitor office applications, it is not possible to extend the Guideline recommendations to large-format or stacked monitors without creating conflict with other ergonomic recommendations.
For example, stacking monitors will likely put the outermost edges of the monitors outside the recommended primary vertical viewing angles, especially for those who need, or prefer, a shorter focal distance. For those who need a longer focal distance, the viewing angles improve.
Test for Fit
With conflicting ergonomics present in multimonitor applications, it is incumbent upon mission-critical console manufacturers to design with a holistic approach using “The Ultimate Test for Fit” as a guide. In this way, manufacturers analyze usability data and feedback from mission-critical agencies and operators to drive real-world, health-first ergonomic features including adjustment ranges.
Choose the Best Consoles for Your Operators
Different console styles come with different ergonomic advantages and disadvantages. If you are looking to buy new consoles and would like to explore the pros and cons of the most popular styles, check out our recent blog post.