KANBrief 1/15

Examples of good practice in machine ergonomics

How can designers of machinery be encouraged to apply ergonomic findings, and how can standards be used for this purpose? How can purchasers be persuaded to order a machine that is better adapted to the needs of its users? KAN relies for this purpose upon examples of good practice, some of which are identified in a study it has commissioned. An Internet portal on which the examples are presented went live in March.

Following a pilot study, KAN commissioned a comprehensive study in 2012 from the Institute of Ergonomics of Darmstadt University of Technology (IAD). The selected topics were in-plant transport equipment and machine tools. The Internet portal developed during the study presents design examples of machines or machine components that are particularly effective in meeting ergonomic criteria. The examples describe innovative solutions for reducing hazards arising from inadequate observance of these criteria.

The portal currently has two main menus. The first of these is divided according to forms of stress (physical, mental and environmental), and presents good solutions for detailed aspects on machines. The second, "Machinery", comprises the main categories of "Machine tools" and "In-plant transport equipment", and corresponding sub-categories. Machine developers and purchasing officers can search here directly according to the type of machine. "Further information" provides a link to the ErgoNoRA standards search tool and a list of terms for searches for the relevant standards.

Support for standardization activity

The DIN Standards Committee Ergonomics has declared more user-friendly formulation of ergonomics standards to be an important goal of its work. Comprehensible examples of good practice in the standards-compliant design of work equipment are intended to promote and improve the effective use of ergonomics standards. The good-practice examples shown on the new Internet portal could therefore be included in a guide to use that would support experts on the standards committees in adding actual ergonomic requirements to Type C standards for certain machines.

A guide supporting the use of ergonomic standards during the design of machinery already exists, in the form of EN 13861:2011 "Safety of machinery – Guidance for the application of ergonomics standards in the design of machinery". In the annex to the guide, 20 different hazards are cross-referenced to the Type B standards that are to be applied. In order to improve implementation of EN 13861 and to facilitate understanding of the cross-referenced Type B standards, it would be advantageous for its provisions also to be linked to examples of good practice.

Good solutions at ErgoMach and in the Guide to application of the Machinery Directive

The lending of greater weight to ergonomics during the design of machinery is the declared objective of ErgoMach (see KANBrief 1/11). The website received a complete overhaul in 2014 and now also serves as a discussion platform. Feedback projects in which the experience of machine users was surveyed systematically have been conducted in recent years, resulting in good-practice solutions in machine ergonomics being added to the website.

The European Commission's Guide to application of the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC explains the requirements of the directive, including those in Annex I, Section 1.1.6, "Ergonomics". These explanations are supported by sheets on the five ergonomic factors of operators variability, space of movements, work rate, concentration and the human/machine interface. The sheets, developed by ErgoMach and linked by the European Commission to the guide, already contain application examples. The good-practice examples in the KAN portal could be used when the guide is updated in order for it to be made even more comprehensible by the inclusion of possible design principles.

Workshop on further development of the KAN Praxis portal

The Internet portal is to be extended in the future with the addition of further examples. KAN is therefore planning a workshop which is intended not only to publicize the portal, but also for discussion of how further examples can be identified. Target groups are disseminators and prevention experts, and manufacturers with an interest in their machines or solutions for detailed aspects being included in the portal.

Corrado Mattiuzzo