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Ergonomic Clearances for Control Room Layouts

Updated: Sep 13, 2023





Control room console furniture must be designed specifically for 24/7 operations in an emergency communications center environment or for critical mission operations, because consoles must be flexible enough to fit in workspaces that provides the necessary clearance space between each console and chair within the area. It is important to allocate sufficient clearance space in order to provide enough personal space for operators and ultimately to mitigate the risk of accidents in the workplace.


Understanding the Clearance Requirements in a Command Center

It is very important that the control room be investigated, audited and analyzed to ensure a good and clear understanding of what clearances need to be followed and integrated in the new design floor layout. This work can be done in several ways, such as:

  • Visiting the existing control room or a similar one (if possible)

  • Reviewing existing procedures

  • Liaising with key people to obtain information pertinent to the control room

  • Consulting with other existing control rooms

  • Consulting with suppliers and consultants who can provide information about their experience

What are the most recommended room layouts when designing a command center?

Square, circular and hexagonal space arrangements are recommended for functional groups in order to maximize communications links between operators. Finally, it is recommended that additional space (up to 25%) be reserved for future expansion.

Traffic Guidelines for Detailed Ergonomic Clearances


To know how much space must be allocated to the passageway, we need to consider the amount and frequency of foot traffic in the command center. This will allow us to efficiently configure the layout for the consoles. Here’s an example of traffic guidelines:

  • Zero Traffic: no traffic, no person requires passage behind or between workstations.

  • Low Traffic: two to three staff require passage to access their personal workstation, only these staff require access, and no other staff needs access (low numbers, low occurrence).

  • Moderate Traffic: staff require passage to access workstations, meeting rooms, file units, printers or any other furniture/equipment which is shared with staff other than those with workstations surrounding the passage.

  • High Traffic: all (any) staff require passage to access various parts of the work environment.


Workstation Against Vertical Barrier

One entry point with zero traffic required behind workstation: the clearance behind the work surface and rear barrier is 42”.


42" Rollback clearance from desk edge to vertical barrier

Conditions

  • Workstation is isolated.

  • There are no reasons for other personnel to pass behind the worker.

  • There is a vertical barrier behind the work surface.

  • The work surface edge is considered to be the front edge of the desk or a keyboard platform in its operational position.

One or two entry points with low traffic behind workstation is required occasionally (two to three personnel require passage to an adjacent workstation): the clearance behind the work surface and rear barrier is 54”.


54" minimum distance from desk edge to vertical barrier to accommodate worker and occasional passage

Conditions

  • Workstation is adjacent to other workstations where two to three personnel require passage behind the seated worker on an occasional basis.

  • Access may be one-sided or two-sided, however if two-sided then an alternative corridor must be provided to avoid use of this passage by other personnel (e.g.: one-sided access would be an enclosed cubicle; two-sided access might be a bank of three desks with access from either side).

  • Only personnel working at adjacent stations require passage, no other traffic is supported.

  • Low occurrence and low number of personnel.

  • There is a vertical barrier behind the work surface.

  • The work surface edge is considered to be the front edge of the desk or a keyboard platform in its operational position.

One or two entry points with moderate traffic behind workstation is required occasionally (several personnel require passage to a workstation, room, office, office equipment, etc.): the clearance behind the work surface and rear barrier is 65”.


65" minimum distance from desk edge to vertical barrier to accommodate passage

Conditions

  • Workstation has adjacent workstations, rooms, printers, file unites or other furniture/equipment that personnel require passage behind the worker to access on a regular basis.

  • Staff requiring passage do not necessarily have workstations adjacent to the work where the passage is required.

  • Moderate occurrence and moderate number of personnel.

  • There is a vertical barrier behind the work surface.

  • The work surface edge is considered to be the front edge of the desk or a keyboard platform in its operational position.

Subsidiary aisle (corridor) behind workstation required for regular usage (High Traffic): the clearance behind the work surface and rear barrier is between 71” to 77”.

77” is the ideal measurement because it is the best option in order to reduce the potential of obstructions, although 71” is considered the minimum, because office chairs are constantly observed to be left away from the desk at >42”.


71" minimum distance from desk edge to vertical barrier to accommodate regular passage

Conditions

  • Workstation backs on to a corridor used by any personnel as regular passage to access various parts of the work environment.

  • The corridor meets the definition for a subsidiary aisle for this dimension. If it is a primary aisle, the passage width must be 43.4” not 35”.

  • There is a vertical barrier behind the work surface.

  • The work surface edge is considered to be the front edge of the desk or a keyboard platform in its operational position.


Workstation Against Another Workstation

One entry point with zero traffic required beyond workstations: the clearance behind the work surface is 78”.


71" clearance between desk surfaces

Conditions

  • Workstations are isolated.

  • There are no requirements for other personnel to pass beyond the workers.

  • Computer set-up should always be left justified so that the telephone and writing surface will be to the right and more importantly, so that chairs are not against each other.

  • The 42” rollback space for each chair overlaps by 6” in the middle to provide a shared buffer zone to avoid obstruction by the other chair.

  • The work surface edge is considered to be the front edge of the desk or a keyboard platform in its operational position.

One or two entry points with low traffic beyond workstation is required occasionally (two to three personnel require passage to an adjacent workstation): the clearance between work surfaces is 84”.

84" clearance between desk surfaces

Conditions

  • Workstations have adjacent desks where two to three personnel require occasional passage beyond the seated workers.

  • Access may be open on one side or two sides, although if two-sided additional corridor access must be provided to avoid use of this passage by other personnel.

  • Only personnel working at adjacent stations require passage, no other traffic is supported.

  • Low occurrence and low number of personnel.

  • Computer set-up should always be left justified so that the telephone and writing surface will be to the right and more importantly, so that chairs are not against each other.

  • The 30” static chair space and 24” dynamic passage are used based on the low frequency of the passage.

  • The work surface edge is considered to be the front edge of the desk or a keyboard platform in its operational position.

One or two entry points with moderate traffic beyond workstation is required occasionally (several personnel require passage to a workstation, room, office, office equipment, etc.): the clearance between work surfaces is 95”.


95" clearance between desk surfaces

Conditions

  • Workstations has adjacent workstations, rooms, printers, file units or other furniture/equipment that personnel require passage behind the work to access on a regular basis.

  • Personnel requiring passage do not necessarily have workstation adjacent to the passage area.

  • Moderate occurrence and moderate number of personnel.

  • Computer set-up should always be left justified so that the telephone and writing surface will be to the right and more importantly, so that chairs are not against each other.

  • The 35” High Traffic passage is used based on the moderate frequency of the passage.

  • The work surface edge is considered to be the front edge of the desk or a keyboard platform in its operational position.

Subsidiary aisle (corridor) between workstations required for regular usage (High Traffic): the clearance between work surfaces is 107”.

107" clearance between desk surfaces

Conditions

  • Workstation backs on to a corridor used by personnel as regular passage to access various parts of the work environment.

  • The corridor meets the definition for a subsidiary passage for this dimension. If it is primary aisle, the passage width must be 43.4” not 35”.

  • Computer set-up should always be left justified so that the telephone and writing surface will be to the right and more importantly, so that chairs are not against each other.

  • The work surface edge is considered to be the front edge of the desk or a keyboard platform in its operational position.

Definition of Spaces

Static chair space is the space allocated to the position of the chair and the worker while dedicated work is being performed on computer equipment.


Dynamic chair space is the space for typical daily seated movements (turn swivel, use backrest angle and lean back in chair).


Rollback chair space is the space considered for the exiting of a chair without hitting rear structures.


Dynamic passage is the passage width used to accommodate a single person walking between two vertical obstructions.


High traffic passage is the passage width used for moderate traffic behind a seated worker, or if the passage is designated as a subsidiary aisle.


Sources

City of Toronto (2016). No Tittle.


Security Control Center Space Requirements (2006). https://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/physec-secmat/pubs/g1-013-eng.htm


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