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How to Create an Effective Control Room

The control room is the hub of operations in many sectors including the emergency services, nuclear plants, transport services, oil refineries, chemical plants, mission control rooms, the mining industry and water treatment facilities.

As the centre of the overall operation, ensuring the services run safely and on time, control room employees are responsible for making sure everything functions smoothly, creating an efficient service that fulfils the users' needs.

In the UK, the emergency services' control room is vital to the life-saving work of the ambulance, fire brigade and police. Also known as the emergency communications centre, the centralised control of the 999 number was first introduced in London in June 1937.

Control room

© Graham Taylor / Shutterstock.com

Prior to this, there had been a more basic type of control room containing telephones, maps, radios and direct lines to the old-fashioned police boxes. These were public telephone kiosks that used to stand on many UK streets for the police to use, or for members of the public to call the police in an emergency.

Over time, technology has advanced and superior equipment is used in the control room to deal with emergency calls. Today's technology can recognise the location of the caller, while conversations and events are recorded to log all incidents, should they be needed as evidence at a later date.

Three key factors are recognised as contributing to the control centre's performance: the human element, the design of the room and the available technology and machinery.


Control room operators

People are at the centre of an effective control room and the layout should be designed around their needs. As well as the basics, such as the appropriate desks, chairs and communications equipment, small factors matter too. Lighting, room temperature and even the tilt of the computer monitor all contribute to efficient operations.

Operators can often work long shifts, as the centre is open 24/7 and can involve long periods staring at a computer screen. Building a control room can be a complex project and these factors should be taken into account at the design stage to ensure it functions in an ergonomic manner.

It can be difficult and expensive to update the room once it's operational, so getting it right to ensure maximum comfort and efficiency from the outset is crucial.


Room environment

Control centres are designed to comply with the international standard ISO 11064, which was last reviewed and confirmed in 2019. It specifies the ergonomic principles, requirements and recommendations for the design of control centres, paying particular attention to the workstations.

Matching the workplace conditions and the demands of the job are very important in practical terms. Designing for efficiency and comfort is the key, as operatives are dealing with ever-increasing volumes of data, and will welcome anything that makes their life less stressful, without affecting performance.

There must be sufficient space to accommodate all the equipment, without the room feeling cramped. Seating should be arranged to take into account the position of the windows to reduce eye-strain from reflection.


Technology and equipment

Most control room workstations incorporate large, flat display screens for the optimum viewing of information. As the role involves long periods using displays, this will reduce the risk of eye-strain, maximising the safe, comfortable and efficient use of screen displays and controls.

The amount of information a person can handle is limited, so the screen's design has a significant impact on the overall operator performance. Studies reveal the best size display should be between 19 and 24 inches. Touch screens are fast becoming the preferred choice, as research shows that when an operator is under extreme stress, it's more difficult to click an icon on-screen using a mouse.

Control room software can enable operators to access multiple feeds including telephone, radio and CCTV on one screen. The interface can be built to suit the industry's individual requirements. Indirect ambient lighting is best, to avoid reflection on the screen.


Electrical matting

In terms of operator safety, it can be a high-risk environment, due to the high voltages. Control rooms use electrical safety matting to counter the risks.

As well as providing extra comfort underfoot around workstations, it has exceptional electrical insulating properties. It is ideal for control rooms and switchboards where operators handle live equipment.

One of the highest grades of electrical rubber matting is compliant with the international safety standard IEC6111-2009 - the latest legislation that details the legal requirements for rubber insulating matting for electrical use. The standard specifies the material, width and thickness of the matting, which undergoes stringent testing under controlled conditions to ensure it complies.

As the control room plays a central role in operations, and staff often have to make life or death decisions in the case of the emergency services, it’s crucial that businesses invest in creating the appropriate environment to ensure it runs efficiently and safely.

Give Coruba a call on 01702 560194 or email info@coruba.co.uk for details of our high-quality electrical rubber matting.

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