Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Cheap office ergonomics

Good article at Psychology today about how to avoid back pain at minimal cost:

1. Maximize your space - make sure that the things you use frequently, such as the stapler or message pad, are within reach. Grabbing for objects can cause back contortions resulting in injury.

2. Level the field - one of the leading causes of back pain is craning your neck to look at a computer screen below your field of vision. "Prop up your monitor with a telephone book," says Kirschner. "They're free and widely available."

3. Lumbarize your chair - if your office chair doesn't offer you enough lumbar support roll up a small towel and placing it in the curve of your lower back. Make sure it is not too large, the towel should just fill the gap between your back and the chair.

4. Get up and stretch periodically - just raise your hands above your head or do a slight back bend every 20 to 40 minutes.

5. Don't cradle the phone - "The single most important preventive measure: don't cradle your phone between your ear and shoulder." Invest in a hands-free headset or use the speakerphone.

Andy Brazier

OHSAS 18001 to become BS

BSi recently held a 'webinar' regarding the planned issued of British Standard BS18001. This is intended to superseded the current occupational health 'specification' OHSAS 18001. It seems an international standard is not yet forthcoming because global requirements are not stringent enough for UK legislation.

The BS will be more closely related to ISO 9001 and 14001 and use of terminology will change a bit. Hazard identification and risk assessment will be required to take into account:
* Human factors such as behaviour and capabilities
* Infrastructure, equipment and materials
* Changes or proposed changes in the organisation or its activity
* Modifications to the OH&S MS…and their impacts on operations, processes and activities
* Any legal obligations relating to risk assessment and implementation of necessary control measures

Risk controls will need to be selected to the fairly well accepted hierarchy of control (elimination, substitution, engineering controls, signs/warnings/procedural, PPE).

A commitment must be made to prevent OH&S incidents. The active role of top management will be emphasised, including how they will demonstrate commitment. Also, all employees will have to take responsibility for aspects of OH&S over which they have control.

There will be a requirement to identify training needs, for those need to be met, to evaluate the effectiveness of training and to keep records of training, education and experience.

Organisations will have to periodically evaluate compliance with applicable legal and other requirements and to keep records of the results. Accidents will need to be investigated and analysed with results being documented.

Benefits of achieving OHSAS 18001 are quoted as

* 52% - large/significant improvement in regulatory compliance
* 32% - decrease in overall costs of accidents
* 17% - decrease in insurance premiums
* 4% - decrease of over 10% in insurance premiums

I guess the implication is that BS18001 will have even more benefits.

From this a couple of things strike me because they are things I have felt to have been very important for sometime:

* Taking human factors into account in hazard identification and risk assessment;
* Training needs analysis and evaluation after training
* Identifying accident investigation and analysis as two processes

Andy Brazier


According to this article whilst autopilots and pilots individually seldom make mistakes, errors sometimes occur because of "inefficient collaboration" between them and this has been known to have caused accidents.

To avoid this new software is being developed that gives the autopilot more calculation work to do. The result is that the human pilot is presented with explicit statements of the current situation, action to be taken and objectives. This gives them a better understanding of what is going on and hence what their part is in it all. Also, it reduces the workload on the pilot, leaving them to spend more time monitoring situations.

It is interesting to read about how errors occur between automated systems and humans, and this could be entirely relevant in other industries such as process control, where I know optimisers can cause confusion. Whether this new software is the solution, I am not so sure. It sounds like the pilot's role is being further eroded, becoming more passive and boring, which may not help their alertness and may even lead to a degradation in skill over time.

Andy Brazier