Last week, the Government issued seven steps to protect yourself, your staff and your customers during coronavirus. They also issued specific advice for factories, plants and warehouses, as well as research facilities.

  1. Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment. Share it with all your staff.
  2. Clean more often. Increase how often you clean surfaces, especially those that are being touched a lot. Ask your staff and your customers to use hand sanitiser and wash their hands frequently.
  3. Ask visitors to wear face coverings where required to do so by law. That is especially important if your visitors are likely to be around people they do not normally meet. Some exemptions apply.
  4. Make sure everyone is social distancing. Make it easy for everyone to do so by putting up signs or introducing a one-way system that staff and visitors can follow.
  5. Increase ventilation by keeping doors and windows open where possible and running ventilation systems at all times.
  6. Take part in NHS Test and Trace by keeping a record of all staff, contractors and visitors for 21 days. From 18 September, this will be enforced in law. Some exemptions apply.
  7. Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away. If a staff member (or someone in their household) or a visitor has a persistent cough, a high temperature or has lost their sense of taste or smell, they should be isolating.

Five more things to be aware of if you work in or run factories, plants and warehouses:

  • Only use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) where appropriate. Where you already use PPE in work, you should continue to do so. But when managing the risk of coronavirus, additional PPE beyond what you usually wear is not beneficial in most situations. Refer to Public Health England on how and when to use PPE.
  • Work with the same team every day. Use fixed teams or shift patterns to reduce the number of people each person comes into contact with.
  • Arrange workspaces to keep staff apart. Consider using barriers between workstations or introduce back-to-back or side-to-side working.
  • Inbound and outbound goods. Minimise deliveries and frequency of handling and use the same pairs of people for load handling where more than one person is needed.
  • Keep music and other background noise to a minimum to prevent people from speaking loudly or shouting.

Five more things to be aware of if your business is a lab or research facility:

  • Work with the same team every day. Use fixed teams or shift patterns to reduce the number of people each person comes into contact with.
  • Reduce crowding. Consider how many people can be in each space while remaining socially distant. Use fixed teams or have staff book rooms or labs to avoid overcrowding.
  • Arrange work spaces to keep staff apart. Consider using barriers between workstations and introduce back-to-back or side-to-side working.
  • Clean shared equipment. Clean workstations and shared equipment frequently and limit the number of people who use them.
  • Communicate and train. Make sure all staff and customers are kept up to date with how safety measures are being used and updated. 

11 May 2020 The government has issued specific guidelines to maintain social-distancing between individuals when they are at their workstations.

More detailed information can be seen on the Government website

For people who work in one place, workstations should allow them to maintain social-distancing wherever possible.

Workstations should be assigned to an individual as much as possible. If they need to be shared they should be shared by the smallest possible number of people.

If it is not possible to keep workstations 2m apart, then extra attention needs to be paid to equipment, cleaning and hygiene to reduce risk.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Reviewing layouts, line set-ups or processes to allow people to work further apart from each other.
  2. Using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help workers keep to a 2m distance.
  3. Only where it is not possible to move workstations further apart, arranging people to work side-by-side or facing away from each other rather than face-to-face.
  4. Only where it is not possible to move workstations further apart, installing screens to separate people from one another.
  5. Using a consistent pairing system if people have to work in close proximity, for example, during 2-person working, lifting or maintenance activities that cannot be redesigned.

The new Partition Protection Screen (PPS) from Human Workspace is designed to reduce the spread of infection in a manufacturing environment, allowing multiple operators to work at joined workstations. They can also be fitted either side of a single workbench.

• Designed to fit Treston ‘Concept’ or ‘TP’ workbenches
• Protects the zone on the worktop AND in front of the worktop
• Features clear acrylic panels
• Optional hi-vis edge protector (recommended for areas with foot traffic)
• Available in 2 heights (600mm deep x 500mm high and 600mm deep x 1000mm high)
• Can be adapted to fit other benches

Please contact us for more details.

The world is currently in the midst of its 4th Industrial Revolution, which is being driven by automation and information. The rise of the use of robotics in numerous industries has caused real concern for the future of many jobs. According to Pew Research, 72% of Americans express wariness or concern about a world where machines perform many of the tasks done by humans.

Though it’s undeniable that more and more tasks are becoming automated, and that this trend will only rise as technology advances, the end of the human workforce is far from nigh. Prophetic claims of the extermination of the human workforce have been greatly exaggerated.

The rise of robots

There are many things that robots can do better than humans. They will always have the advantage when it comes to tasks that involve heavy lifting, precise motions and exact repetitions. They possess more strength, endurance and accuracy than humans, which has resulted in the loss of numerous manufacturing jobs. Another advantage of robots in the thankfully more safety-conscious present day is an ability to work in hazardous environments.

Beyond the manufacturing industry, automation is growing in a variety of sectors. Widely known are the self-checkout tills in supermarkets and service kiosks in retail, but robots have also been introduced in several surprising workplaces. In hospitals, robots have been delivering trays of food and drugs, cleaning linens, disposing of waste, and safely lifting patients for a number of years. In 2014, the University of Birmingham introduced its first ever robot security guard, Bob. Bob stands at 5 feet 10 inches tall and scans rooms to detect anything out of the ordinary. In South Korea, children are even learning English from a robot teacher, Engkey. The trend of introducing robots into new, unexpected vocations isn’t going away anytime soon.

The human touch

Robots may well be taking over a number of jobs, but there will always be a need for human intervention between the jobs that robots do, and those jobs operated by technical and operational teams. Automation alone is not the best way to increase productivity. Striking the right balance of a human and robot workforce is the modern path to success in manufacturing. It is important to recognise the advantages us homo sapiens have over our mechanical counterparts. For example, robots excel when it comes to prescribed tasks but typically cannot handle unexpected situations. They are also unable to improve on the job without reprogramming as they are unable to learn from situations in the same way we can. And if a robot malfunctions, fixing the issue not only costs money but time too.

The automotive industry was among the first to truly embrace the widespread use of robots on factory floors. In this sector, there are a number of case studies that prove companies cannot simply replace people with machines and expect instant results. An appreciation of the types of tasks robots do more effectively, and in contrast the jobs that require the human touch is the key to success. Leading car companies have almost completely automated their paint and body shops. These types of jobs require constant repetition and consistent quality. On the contrary, assembly lines, which deal with the vast amount of options in today’s customised vehicle market, rely heavily on people due to the flexibility and personal touch required. An ability to understand the costs involved in automation is also a deciding factor when it comes to the success or failure of a business. One European auto plant that invested 10 million euros in technology that would install windshields on cars on the assembly line, replacing the people who once did the job. They were initially more consistent, but it turned out that maintaining such highly sophisticated technology required twice as many workers as company had employed in the first place.

Due to the growing number of robots and automated systems in manufacturing facilities, more maintenance and technical work is required to make sure they are operating efficiently. This is creating a real need for multi-skilled people who can operate, monitor and maintain machines, as well as repair them when they malfunction.

Head counts have not plummeted in the most proactive, future-ready and cost-effective operations, but workers are now expected to possess a wider array of skills. A more automated assembly line means that businesses will require their employees to be multi-skilled and technically savvy.

Getting the most out of your non-robotic workers

With more pressure on modern-day employees to be multi-skilled and productive, it is key to ensure that they have a working environment which allows them to perform to their full capabilities. It’s no use hiring someone with a plethora of skills if their workspace prevents them from utilising them. Human Workspace can help your business maximise its potential with a full workplace assessment. We can then tailor solutions and equipment to suit your needs and help you grow.

Want to know more?

Find out how we help our customers increase their productivity and become future-proof, then give us a call on 01273 704520 to chat about your needs.

RafaelHuman Workspace wholeheartedly supports the IET’s (Institution of Engineering and Technology) ‘Engineering Work Experience for All’ campaign, which aims to highlight the importance of work placement and internships for engineering students.

We spoke to Rafael, a recent engineering graduate who is interning as a Design Technician at Human Workspace, about his experience with us so far.

 

What were you doing before you joined us at Human Workspace?

I qualified in mechanical engineering from University Carlos III in Madrid before coming to the UK to gain more professional experience and to improve my English. My course was unique in that it was taught primarily in English with a small element in Spanish so coming to the UK to work wasn’t quite as much of a challenge!

 

What have you gained so far from the experience? 

It’s been useful to visit so many different manufacturing environments as although each one is different, there are obvious similarities between them – some good, and some not so good! Part of my role is to analyse the not so good issues and help address them, primarily through improved workspace layout and appropriate furniture.

 

What current projects are you working on?

I’m working on a range of projects, from carrying out manufacturing process assessments to designing manufacturing cells all with the aim of increasing productivity and workflow. I’m also exploring ergonomics in the workplace and developing a range of ideas that help address the health issues associated with prolonged sitting, specifically in the manufacturing environment.

 

What improvements do you believe the manufacturing industry should be looking to make in the near future?

There’s increasing evidence that sitting for too long slow the metabolism and is linked with obesity, some types of cancer, and early death. Prolonged standing has also been linked with ill-health but with increased awareness of the health benefits as well as improved productivity through the use of sit-stand workspaces, these issues may soon be a thing of the past. It’s amazing that a workstation that facilitates the seamless switching between sitting and standing throughout the day can potentially not only improve someone’s life but actually extend it!

 

What are the most interesting parts of your current projects and why?

Taking a problem and creating the perfect solution for each individual customer’s requirements. I enjoy working out the best way to address a problem within a budget and creating something that actually helps improve a company’s efficiency.

 

What are your personal goals for the future?

I’m hoping to play for Real Madrid(!) but if that doesn’t happen, I’d like to improve my English and my engineering skills and eventually have my own international company!

 

Want to know more?

Find out how Rafael and the rest of the Human Workspace team can improve productivity in your place of work through ergonomic workspace design and give us a call on 01273 704520 to chat about your needs.

Sit-stand desks have been a huge topic in office ergonomics for years, but it seems there has been much less talk of introducing them to the industrial workplace. Research into the risks of sitting in front of a computer all day was the catalyst for a change in office environments, but it can be argued that the type of work completed by manufacturing workers demands a greater need for an adjustable workstation.

Risks of a sedentary job

Whether working in an office or on an assembly line, any primarily sedentary job puts an employee at risk of a number of health issues. Studies link sedentary lifestyles with an increase in cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers. In fact, 3.2 million deaths a year are related to physical inactivity, making it the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. The term ‘sitting disease’ has even been coined by the scientific community, commonly being used when referring to metabolic syndrome.

A study published by the American College of Sports Medicine (2009) found that those who sat the most had a 50% increased risk of early death, regardless of fitness levels. It is a common misconception that exercise can compensate for too much sitting. Low intensity activities such as standing and walking are much more important than most people realise. These low-level activities play a crucial metabolic role and account for more of our daily energy expenditure than moderate-to-high intensity activities.

Benefits of a sit-stand workstation in an industrial workplace

To help eliminate the risks of a sedentary working lifestyle it is recommended that employees initially aim for 2 hours of standing a day, eventually progressing to 4 hours. This can take time to get used to and prolonged static standing postures should be avoided; no more than 45 minutes at a time is recommended. General benefits of less sedentary lifestyles include: an extra 0.5-2 kcal burned per minute, a reduction in muscular-skeletal discomfort (e.g. lower back pain), the reduced risk of cardio-metabolic diseases and premature mortality, a reduction in the risk of fat deposited around vital organs, and an increase in energy levels.

In an industrial environment, it may not be possible to complete certain types of work when standing, however an adjustable workstation can still provide many benefits. Compared to office work, manufacturing work can put a greater stress on the body for a number of reasons such as the level of force exerted, a repetition of tasks and vibration from tools. This type of work may also require awkward postures and finer movements in order to complete a task effectively. These factors mean that in order to live a healthy working lifestyle, a comfortable workstation is imperative. The amount of workplace injuries in manufacturing is statistically significantly higher in comparison to most other industries. The only industries with a higher workplace industry rate all involve outdoors or off-site work (e.g. agriculture, transport and construction).

An adjustable workstation can alleviate a number of risks leading to these injuries. The workstation can be set to suit the type of work being completed. For example, it is recommended that the surface is set above elbow height for fine visual work and below elbow height for tasks requiring downward force or heavy physical effort. Roles that involve shift work with multiple workers using the same workstations will greatly benefit from the ability to adjust the height to suit their needs and preferences.

An ergonomic workstation not only benefits the individual but will also result in an increase in productivity and an improvement in quality of work. Healthier employees mean a decrease in absenteeism and an increase in morale. Plus, a company that proves they are committed to the health of their employees will show that health and safety is a core value and can attract a higher calibre of worker.

How we can help

At Human Workspace, we pride ourselves on our expertise in workplace ergonomics. We provide ergonomic assessments of workplaces, which may sound clinical, but it is essential to get to know the individuals in a workplace in order to understand what they do and how we can benefit them personally. Whether it’s a shop floor, assembly line, tool workstation or an office, we are confident we can provide the right equipment and advice to provide long-term benefits which will maximise comfort and efficiency. Our range of sit-stand workstations can be tailor-made to suit your needs.

Want to know more?

Watch how an adjustable workstation improved the working lives of Daisy and Gintare from our admin team. Or give us a call on 01273 704520 to chat about your needs.

 

Ergonomics literally means: “designed for humans”. Well, technically, it’s “the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment”, but let’s not split hairs: it’s all about making working environments suitable for human habitation.

This all might seem like common sense, but it’s surprising how often people aren’t really considered in the workplace design and construction. We see you, non-adjustable desk – get out of our sight.

The truth is a lot of people just don’t think about it when they’re setting up a workplace: a few workstations, some stools, tools – that’ll do. But just like a laptop that you use once and never recharge, there’s no point in putting perfectly useful Homo sapiens in a work environment that drains them from the moment they step through the door.

This is where workplace ergonomics come to the fore. If you think of your workers first, you’ll reap the rewards, so a proper ergonomically informed setup is key to any successful business. Here are just some of the ways that building your space around your humans can help your business’ productivity.

1.      It makes your employees healthier

One of the most obvious impacts of bad workplace design is on the physical health of your employees. Ergonomically designed workplaces can help reduce stress and decrease repetition, which – if you’ve been keeping up-to-date with our blog – you’ll know can cause back pain and other issues that lead to sickness and reduced productivity. Bad workplace design might mean that employees have to bend, twist, or lift heavy objects. Healthy employees are (more likely to be) happy employees, which also means…

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Healthy employees are happier employees

2.      It can help you keep your best staff

Keeping your top players not only means retaining their expertise and, ahem, ‘know-how’; it means that you don’t end up in a vicious cycle whereby you spend time – the precious working hours of your trained employees – and money training new staff to get them up to the standards of your other employees, only for them to leave in under a year. The implications for your productivity are obvious: new staff are often less productive until they’re trained, meaning that your other employees have to take on some of the load, which also reduces their capacity to do their own jobs.

3.      It inspires creativity

Creativity is important to your business, no matter what you do. It really just means ‘new ideas’ and new ideas can help across your business – from improving a particular manufacturing method, to new product development, new ways to work with your customers and more. If you don’t have creativity in your business then you’re like a speedboat without an engine; you can bob around where you’re are, but you’re not going anywhere new.

Good workplace design can reduce the strain on employees, freeing up their brains to do their thing, whilst properly designed spaces can enable collaboration, aiding the creative process. If you think this doesn’t seem apply to factory design, think about your communal spaces.

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Properly designed workspaces can free employees to be creative

4.      It can make people feel more comfortable at work

Properly designed collaborative spaces can enhance creativity and productivity, but that’s not to say every space should be out in the open. Studies have shown that people work better if they have a sense of privacy in their own space. Mental health is as important as physical health to employee wellbeing and productivity; good workplace design takes account of all human factors.

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Employees who feel comfortable and relaxed are much more productive

5.      It shortens processes

Or reduces “cycle time”, per this little ditty from the International Journal of Engineering and Technology (IJET). And shorter processes throughout the chain means a faster overall process, which in turn means that manufacturing volume can increase.

6.      It increases quality

By making processes easier to carry out, and more repeatable, people are less likely to make errors.  This leads to less rework (i.e. putting right what once went wrong) and increases the number of widgets that get sent to customers, thereby increasing your bottom line.  So, with proper ergonomic processes in place, Dr. Sam need never have stepped into the Quantum Leap Accelerator.

7.      It keeps you up to date

A properly designed workplace can evolve and embrace new technology to improve. This might be through the machine technology or it might be the latest industrial furniture – being at the cutting edge means that you’re always pushing the top line of productivity, ready to improve.

Want to know more?

Find out how we help DeSoutter increase their productivity, then give us a call on 01273 704520 to chat about your needs.