Ergonomic suggestions for a control panel

Last week I discussed an assessment that was conducted on a control panel for workers at a manufacturing plant. The control board was large, causing reaching for controls, awkward postures of the trunk and neck to see around or over the control board and it did not provide room to sit comfortably.

Here are the recommendations that our ergonomist made:

Investigate the feasibility of modifications to the control panel to enable greater adjustability and subsequently minimize awkward postures. The following design goals are recommended:

        1. Minimize forward and above shoulder reach for frequently-used controls
        2. Minimize leaning forward in the seat; enable Operators to sit back in the chair in a neutral, supported posture.
        3. Improve clearance beneath the panel and support for the legs and feet when seated.




To achieve these design goals, the following options may be considered:

        1. Investigate the feasibility of repositioning frequently used controls toward the bottom of the panel. If no further changes are made to the panel arm, this would minimally help to reduce some of the awkward postures associated with reaching for the controls.
        2. In combination with the above recommendation, investigate the feasibility of installing a mechanism to enable height adjustability within the control panel to better accommodate the range of statures with the Operators. In particular, height adjustability would enable Operators to position the panel to minimize above shoulder reaching and to improve clearance beneath the panel for the legs when seated.
        3. Investigate the feasibility of reducing the size of the control panel, including height, width and depth. The size of the panel, and in particular the depth, presently limits the effectiveness of the above recommendations. For example, the depth of the panel will limit the amount of clearance a worker has to put his/her legs under the panel regardless of the height that the panel is set at. Tilting the panel into an upright position is not recommended since it may potentially introduce concerns associated with pressing and operating the controls, as well as impairing line of sight to the surrounding machinery.




Once a final decision is made on the above options, EWI always offers to assist in providing specific design criteria.  In this case, we recommend a follow up consultation to assist with the specifics in the positioning of the panel, based on worker anthropometry and the nature of the tasks.

In addition to modifications of the control panel, the following were also suggested:

        1. Reduce requirement to look at bars moving downstream from the control panel. The ergonomist suggested using a computer monitor instead to reduce having to peer over the panel and producing an awkward posture.
        2. Rotation of workers every 4 hours if standing to use panel. In this case, the company does already have shift rotation in place.
        3. Ergonomic training for the employees – the ergo training should teach the workers how to reduce risks through taking micro breaks, perform work break stretches and adapt proper body positions when working, learn to identify MSI symptoms and report them to a supervisor.