The Economics of Ergonomics

How to improve productivity and wellness in central monitoring stations

Most security personnel confined to control centers and central monitoring stations have experienced it — and you probably have as well: As you are packing up to head home at the end of a long work day, your body aches and you feel exhausted. Most people chalk it up to a busy day at work and hope they will feel better the next day, but the cycle often continues day after day. Something else must be wrong. The bottom line is that these physiological issues can have a dire effect on the productivity and health of security personnel, which can be detrimental to both overall security and business operations.

While security monitoring personnel may be working hard and putting in long hours, their aches, pains and general fatigue may actually be the result of the technical furniture installed in their central monitoring environment. Without proper ergonomics, security personnel can experience back and neck pain, causing them to slouch — which can lead to a host of chronic ailments, including arthritis and bursitis, as well as musculoskeletal disorders, obesity, diabetes and more. In addition, it is extremely fatiguing for one’s body to compensate for improper positioning and/or lack of movement during the course of the day, which can lead to further complications.

It stands to reason that if poorly designed furniture is detrimental to one’s health, then well-designed furniture can have positive impacts. The Washington State Department of Labor reviewed 250 ergonomics case studies and found that properly designed furniture systems provide numerous business benefits, including higher productivity, increased employee engagement, and a better overall health and safety culture within the workplace. All this readily applies to technical furniture systems for use in central monitoring stations and all security control centers.


Designing for Health

When planning and designing a security monitoring environment, it is important to consider the posture and neck angle of the system operators who will be spending hours on end viewing video displays. Design software like Middle Atlantic Products’ Designer with its ergonomic line of sight tool (available free on the MAP website), can help ensure correct positioning of monitors on workstations and on large video walls. It is also sensible to select furniture that allows multiple displays to be easily adjusted to accommodate an individual’s changing position. This is particularly important in security control rooms where different employees using the same workspace can adjust the video displays to optimum viewing angles. Slide-out keyboard trays, ergonomically suitable chairs and the radius of “frequently used” items all play a part in operator comfort and correct ergonomics, based on operator size and his or her interaction with the system.

The employee wellness that results from having an ergonomic and comfortable control center furniture system has a number of additional benefits. Because the risks of short- and long-term health problems are lower, medical and other related costs are potentially reduced. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics studies, approximately $1 of every $3 in worker’s compensation costs can be attributed to various musculoskeletal diseases that result from poor ergonomics. Properly designed technical furniture systems can help reduce an employer’s potential liability for on-the-job injuries such as disc alignment and carpal tunnel syndrome.

For security professionals whose jobs require them to sit at a desk or console most of the day, there is an even greater potential problem from what medical experts have dubbed “Sitting Disease.” To study the effects of sitting for long periods, the American Cancer Society tracked more than 120,000 individuals from 1993 to 2006 and found that sitting more than six hours a day — at home, work and while commuting — can increase mortality rates. These statistics take on even more significance when you consider that the average American sits for 7.7 hours per day, or 55 percent of their waking hours, according to a Vanderbilt University study. This is a major issue for all chair-bound workers in the labor force.

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