Ergonomics at a railway ticket office case study

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On October 27, 2016, Posted by , In Ergonomic design,Retail ergonomics, By , With No Comments

Sitting vs standing – a different approach is required

I went to visit a rail company who has completely rebuilt and redesigned their ticketing office at one of London’s terminus stations. The staff are all on board and looking forward to the new facilities opening… the public sure are ready for hoardings to come down and business as usual to resume… and it was just around the corner – 3 weeks to go! We were asked to go and take a look at the ticketing furniture to see how the equipment could be best laid out.

I asked the fateful question: “So, are these ticketing desks going to be for seated or standing operation? Or both?”

And got the disappointing answer… “Seated. With a raised floor so that our staff aren’t intimidated by customers.”

All the money, time and effort that had gone into the design and consultation with stakeholders about what would be best in the new ticketing office and the huge media hype about “sitting being the new smoking” and no one had thought that designing for both postures might be the thing to do? Crushing.  Never mind the health and safety problems having people sitting on a raised floor with an edge behind them!

Adjustable solutions give the best flexibility

The health and safety and occupational health teams involved were very keen to have it so both postures could be used but somehow the designer had talked the company out of it! It was just such a shame. Being able to switch between postures is best – standing immediately reduces the stresses and strains placed on the body when it is seated… and sitting down after a period of standing usually is a welcome rest. Ideally, any job that can be done standing AND seated should be designed so that both postures are indeed possible. Workstations need to be adjustable.

I explained this to the team responsible for the new ticket offices and we were all pleased to see that they got it, and wanted to implement it… and then their designer did a swift about face and agreed that this would be for the best. Unfortunately, the furniture was already built and waiting to be installed. We suggested that the ticketing equipment – touchscreen and keyboard – be height and reach adjustable so that the employees could move it to suit themselves in both seated and standing postures at the workstations. This was a clumsier option than if working in both postures had been designed into the furniture at the outset of the project but it was a very workable solution.

Consider ergonomics early on for maximum success

I cannot stress how important it is to involve a usability or human factors consultant in the early stages of a project like this – it can save a lot of headaches later and ensure that the best possible solution is reached! After talking about the possible posture options, they asked for an opinion on the chairs they’d chosen as there had been some negative feedback regarding these… but let’s look at the next time.

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