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This guideline incorporates ergonomics into a step-by-step process for the optimal design of office systems, including the design of jobs and work organization, layout of the office, environmental conditions, and workstation design. It is intended predominately for office workers and employers who are responsible for health and safety or ergonomics programs in the workplace. It will, however, also be useful for facility designers, purchasers, building maintenance, health and safety regulatory agencies, and manufacturers and designers associated with office ergonomics.
The overall objective of this guideline is to optimize the design of an office system for its users, by matching the design of displays, input devices, the workplace, the working environment, work organization, and work tasks to the characteristics and abilities of potential users.
When this objective is realized, office users are more: healthy, efficient, effective, productive, free of discomfort and satisfied.
The overall objective is achieved through the following sub-objectives. Users of this guideline will be able to
- identify the unique characteristics and concerns of their office workers and seek their participation in office design;
- achieve a "fit" between office furniture or equipment and workers performing their tasks;
- improve workstation layout;
- optimize the job design
- both task functions and organization of work;
- optimize the design of the environmental conditions (for example, lighting and air quality);
- improve general office layout;
- review office designs with methods such as mock-ups and user trials;
- use a systems approach and involve all affected parties within the organization;
- develop education and training programs;
- understand and identify the outcomes of office design, including undesirable concerns such as work-related musculoskeletal disorders and sick building syndrome; and
- use appraisals for assessing each component of the office system.Intended users and applications of this guideline
There are a number of intended users of this guideline, and several different applications, as shown in Table 1. The main audience this guideline is intended for is office workers and employers who are responsible for health and safety or ergonomics programs in the workplace. Although it is assumed most office workers use a computer, this guide does include information for other tasks performed in an office, such as manual materials handling. Office workers and employers would most likely use this guide to assess office problems and recommend solutions. They may also be asked to assist during modification of an office system, design of a new system, or the procurement of new technology, equipment, or furniture.
Many office workers have little control over the original design or subsequent modification of their office systems. Therefore, this guide is also intended for architects, planners, designers, building services, and purchasing personnel. They should likewise use this guide during the design of new office systems, when renovating, and during the purchase of new equipment and furniture.
Health and safety and regulatory agencies will also be interested in this guideline for purposes of education and consultation and as a reference for the development of regulations and codes of practice. Professional groups such as ergonomists, industrial hygienists, engineers, and related specialists are also intended users of the information in this guideline. This may include education and training using the information in this guideline. Manufacturers and designers will obtain general information from this guideline, so their products can meet the minimum requirements specified in this document.
In conjunction with the development of this guideline, Canada is a voting member of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in the development of its ISO 9241 series "Ergonomic Requirements for Office Work with Visual Display Terminals (VDTs)". CSA has adopted as National Standards of Canada several of the ISO 9241 series of Standards. These Standards address ergonomic requirements for office work with visual display terminals (VDTs). Information in these Standards has been used in development of this guideline, and reference is made to them in various sections.
For many users, the information contained in this guideline will meet their basic needs. It goes beyond the ISO series by incorporating technical office ergonomics information in a step-by-step process that should be used in the workplace to implement office ergonomics. Some users, however, may need to refer to the adopted CSA-ISO standards for further background on basic principles or for detailed equipment specifications and test criteria for visual displays, keyboards, and non-keyboard input devices. It should also be noted that Part 1 of the 9241 series provides a general introductory review of the series of Standards.
The following Standards in the ISO 9241 series have been adopted by CSA:
- CAN/CSA-ISO 9241-1-00, Ergonomic requirements for office work with visual display terminals (VDTs)
- General introduction (Adopted ISO 9241-1:1997);
- CAN/CSA-ISO 9241-2-00, Guidance on task requirements (Adopted ISO 9241-2:1992);
- CAN/CSA-ISO 9241-3-00, Visual display requirements (Adopted ISO 9241-3:1992);
- CAN/CSA-ISO 9241-4-00, Keyboard requirements (Adopted ISO 9241-4:1998);
- CAN/CSA-ISO 9241-5-00, Workstation layout and postural requirements (Adopted ISO 9241-5:1998);
- CAN/CSA-ISO 9241-7-00, Requirements for display with reflections (Adopted ISO 9241-7:1998);
- CAN/CSA-ISO 9241-8-00, Requirements for display colours (Adopted ISO 9241-8:1997); and
- CAN/CSA-ISO 9241-9-00, Requirements for non-keyboard input devices (Adopted ISO 9241-9-2000).
This guideline does not contain information pertaining to software design or presentation of information on computers. Design and presentation of software can play a large role in promoting efficient and healthy office work. Software designers and others interested in this information should consult ISO 9241, Parts 10-17.
Information in this guideline comes in two forms: ergonomic principles expressed in the form of performance goals (for example, "the chair should fit the user") and suggested specifications (for example, chair dimensions). It is important to understand that an office system may comply with the specifications, yet some individual workers may still have problems or not achieve the performance goals. In using this guideline, understand the ergonomic principles and goals first, and use the specifications as a possible approach to achieve the goals. If the specifications do not accommodate your workers, further reference may be required to the adopted ISO 9241 Standards or other publications.
Structure of the guideline
The majority of users of this guide will be fixing office problems, optimizing the design of new office systems, or procuring new technology, equipment, or furniture. This guideline has been structured as a step-by-step design process to fit these purposes. Figure 1 outlines the ideal design process for all these functions, and Table 2 shows the process in more detail, providing a brief description of the content of each of step.
It is recommended that all intended users of this guideline review each step in the order provided, for the best possible office ergonomics outcome. Even a change in an office system, such as the purchase of furniture, can benefit from a full understanding of the users, the job design, and the office layout and a consideration of the office environment. All changes will also benefit from some form of review of the design and from user trials, as well as from education and training. It is recognized that the level of formality, structure, and paperwork within the steps will differ in a small workplace compared with a large corporation. To illustrate the different approaches for using the step-by-step process, two case studies have been included in Appendix A. One is for a small business and the other for a large corporation.
At the end of each step is an appraisal, or checklist, that summarizes the important information in the step. These are amalgamated into a single appraisal at the end of the document. Successfully completing each step in the appraisal is consistent with the optimal design of the office system.