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Optimized workload in process control centres utilizing modern ICT equipment

Project number: F 2359 Institution: Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) / Karlsruher Institut für Technologie / Human-Factors-Consult GmbH (HFC) Status: Completed Project


Depending on the context of use in more complex work environments, many control tasks are performed in central process control centres. Being often responsible for the safety of several process systems and additional services like access and maintenance control, the operators in these centres have an increased workload. Carrying out their control tasks, the operators use visual display screen equipment. In addition to interaction techniques like using keyboard, mouse and bi-dimensional screen visualisation, new technologies alter and enrich existing interaction designs. These new technologies are designed to support the operators with the completion of their tasks by making the inputting of data and commands quicker, easier or more intuitive, and by providing a clearer and more detailed display of real-time information on the status of facilities, for example.

The goal of the project was to develop recommendations for the successful selection, design and introduction of new technologies in order to relieve the operators’ workloads and strengthen the safety levels at the facilities. To this end, several sub-projects were carried out:

  • Part 1: The state-of-the-art of modern ICT equipment and its future usability for control room operations
  • Part 2.1: Multitasking in control rooms
  • Part 2.2: Analysis of stress levels and working requirements of the various display options for video recordings
  • Part 2.3: Interactions between operators in control rooms and remote personnel using modern ICT
  • Part 3: Interactive guide to the preparation of a risk assessment for the use of new ICT in control rooms

The objective of the first step (part 1) was to determine the state-of-the-art and the development towards new ICT in control rooms with a survey of approximately forty control room operators and providers and a workshop.

Subsequently, in part 2.1, a model as developed for the stress-optimised configuration of tasks in order to optimize the allocation of main control and subsidiary administrative tasks against effects of both excess and insufficient mental workloads. In laboratory studies with approximately thirty test persons, this model was reviewed and adapted to the results.

The aim of part 2.2 was to investigate various different possibilities for the video display of camera images on monitors in control rooms. Specifically, the suitability of these display options was investigated in a laboratory study with approximately forty test persons: auto cycling, mirror reflections, distortions, augmented reality, three-dimensional depictions and LED-Walls. A field study aimed to generate indications and suggestions for appropriate implementation as well as warnings for inappropriate implementation of some technologies in special work environments.
Part 2.3 was conducted to assess the communication of operators in control rooms with employees at the facility using mobile devices. For this purpose, employees of three companies with control rooms using notebooks, tablets and smartphones were observed and asked about their workload situations. At another four facilities with control rooms, the planning and practical testing of new technologies and mobile devices were observed. On this basis, a checklist was then developed for implementing new mobile devices to improve the communication between operators and employees at the facility. This list consists of three areas: basic requirements, system and work organisation as well as hardware and software.

Acknowledging the results from previous parts, a browser based software tool for risk assessments in control rooms was developed in part 3. This tool includes forms to document basic data in preparation for the assessment, task analysis, time planning of measure implementations and measure performance tests. Centrally, however, guidelines are provided on a task-appropriate selection for 17 different technologies with subsequent dynamically adaptable checklists for the assessment of possible hazards with proposed measures as well as fields for determining and the prioritising of measures.

Within the results of this project and in addition to the results of project F 2249 „Ergonomic Design of Workstations with Visual Display Units in Control Rooms“, comprehensive requirements, recommendations and suggestions of new technologies in control rooms and mobile devices are available. The further development of new technologies should constantly be observed in order to detect potential research demand.



Unit 2.3 "Human Factors, Ergonomics"

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