A truck with its driver on board is standing on a sloping quayside. Suddenly the truck starts to roll backward toward the edge of the quay. The driver reacts spontaneously and pushes the direction lever forward. This results in the truck increasing speed and falling over the edge of the quay. The truck driver is seriously injured in the accident.
In the police enquiry following this incident, it was concluded that the accident was due to the truck driver’s error. However, the lever that controlled the direction in which the truck travelled was designed so that when the lever was pushed forward the truck travelled backward, and when it was pushed backward, the truck moved forward.
On further thought, it is self-evident that this design is both illogical and unsuitable. It should instead have been designed so that the truck travelled in the direction of the lever movement. It could be said that the accident was caused by designer error rather than user error. The designer had not taken into account the natural response of a truck driver in such an incident—that is to say—no consideration had been given to ergonomic factors in the design of the controls of the truck.
Ergonomics is concerned with the adaptation of technology to suit man’s natural abilities and needs. The aims of research in this field are to:
1. Prevent ill-health, injury, and fatigue.
2. Create comfort and well-being.
3. Promote efficiency (both qualitatively and quantitatively) and improve reliability in production.
4. Create interesting and meaningful jobs.
Control rooms of different types have considerable problems as far as adaptation to man is concerned. Problems include instruments that are difficult to read and which are illogically positioned, or controls that are difficult to hold and have unsuitable movement directions.
This handbook is designed to be used as a simple and easily accessible aid in the design and development of new control and operation rooms, primarily in the process industries. Suitable sections may also be used in the design of other types of control rooms. The book is important for all those involved in the design of operation: control room designers, instrument engineers, data engineers, process specialists, and control engineers. It is my hope that the process operators who sit and operate the machines will also be able to use this book.
It is sometimes impossible to provide concrete recommendations and solutions to problems. What is needed instead is a general knowledge of man’s functioning, needs, and nature in order to be able to choose the best technical solution in a particular situation. This results in certain chapters in the book being of a more descriptive nature.
Accordingly, this could be seen as an ergonomic ‘cookbook’ where the ‘recipes’—that is, the development of operation and control rooms—are easily accessible.
A lot of background material and many definitions have been excluded in order to fulfil this aim, but those who are especially interested can find them in other publications cited.