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INDUSTRIAL ENGINEER – VOLUME 47, NUMBER 11
Emergency (911) call center work compounds the typical health risks of sedentary computer work with high stress, high information processing load, extended (12-hour) rotating work shifts and error-free work requirements. Emergency center workers also are affected by musculoskeletal disorders, with known risks related to physical and psychosocial stressors. Recognizing these risks, these workers have adjustable workstations, ergonomic chairs and adaptable lighting,.
Nancy Black and Annie-Pier Fortin and Grant Handrigan studied this phenomenon in “Postural and Perception Variations When Using Manually Adjustable and Programmable Sit-Stand Workstations in an Emergency Call Center.” They tested 12 emergency call center workers who had electrically controlled sit-stand workstations, comparing the manual version with a new programmable version. The latter version automatically changed between seated and standing heights. Stressful neck and trunk postures were quantified, along with perceptions of stiffness, tiredness, neck pain, back pain, happiness, discomfort, productivity, ability to concentrate and alertness.
Manually controlled workstations were only adjusted to a standing height 6 percent of the time, and on a regular basis, such adjustments were insufficient to minimize musculoskeletal discomfort. In contrast, workers stood 41 percent of the time using the programmable workstation. General discomfort and back pain worsened significantly with the programmable workstation, perhaps due to the additional time spent standing. Participants enjoyed the desk movement, which encouraged movement and lowered fatigue. The programmable workstation improved posture over the manually adjusted workstation, and design refinements and user training in office ergonomics are recommended to maximize benefits.
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