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Main Control Center Gets Ergonomic Update

The newly updated Main Control Center. (Click on image for larger version.)

The SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory Main Control Center is usually fairly quiet during the annual two-month shutdown of the linear accelerator. But this year, the operators were hard at work leading a renovation project to improve the ergonomics of the MCC and fully integrate controls for the Linac Coherent Light Source.

"This was really a ground-up effort," said Roger Erickson, head of the Accelerator Operations Department. "It was the MCC operators who figured out what needed to be done to make the area more ergonomically safe, how to do it and how to make it happen."

The center was originally built in the 1970s, and although it's had several updates over the years, it was very much time for another, said Robin Gold, an engineering operator in charge, or EOIC, who was actively involved in the project. "This room is staffed 24 hours a day with people of all sizes and shapes, sometimes on 12-hour shifts," she said. Operators track and control the SLAC accelerator beams in the MCC. "When you have to monitor a large number of display screens for a long period of time, it can lead to neck and back pain if the room isn't designed with ergonomics in mind."

The MCC layout proposed by operators and engineering operators in charge. (Click on image for larger version.)

After researching ergonomic standards, operators and EOICs redesigned their space, taking into account possible neck and eye strain due to overhead screens as well as wrist and repetitive stress injuries due to non-adjustable workstations. The new design takes into account ergonomics and the layout of the room as it will be used for LCLS operations. Traffic flow, telephone accessibility and the ability of operators to work collaboratively were all considered.

The centerpiece of the new design is a very large horseshoe-shaped desk, designed by a group of MCC operators and EOICs and custom-built by the SLAC carpentry shop. "This was a huge job for us," said Aidan Metzger, Carpentry Shop Supervisor. "We're proud of the results. Mike Hughes and Dave Toews pitched in to build the templates and figure out how to do it right, do it on budget, and do it quickly. We were really under the wire to get this done on time with our small shop, and these guys came through." The desk includes keyboard and mouse trays with adjustable height and tilt, and places overhead displays no more than 30 degrees above eye level for any user.

"Machine performance and uptime depend on our ability to easily access machine controls, monitor many data displays at once, multitask and work together," said Gold. "This upgrade, with its improved functionality and design, means better machine operation for the LCLS."

The LCLS budget originally included money to update the MCC, but those funds were lost due to the challenging FY08 budget. By researching, planning and in some cases implementing the new design themselves, the MCC operators greatly reduced the cost of the upgrades.

"It's difficult to make any real changes to the control room while running the accelerator, so everyone involved worked very hard to complete this big project during the downtime," Gold said. "The result is not only a more modern and attractive control room, but also a safer, more comfortable and more efficient work environment for control room staff."

—Kelen Tuttle
SLAC Today, November 17, 2008