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IRSST: Addressing the challenges of improving operator workstations

The Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST), the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) and the Syndicat des opérateurs de métro (CA-OM-SC SCFP 1983, the union representing subway operators) are proud to announce the winning conditions that led to improvements being made in the Montréal subway operators’ workstation in the MR-73 model of subway car. These conditions are outlined in the summary entitled Addressing the challenges posed by the Montréal subway operator workstation: vibrations, confined space, and little leeway for improvement. This document describes a technical process and a joint-representation collaborative approach grounded in the real work context. It will hopefully inspire anyone who is concerned about improving a workstation in a context that offers little room for change or who is faced with a complex problem.

In view of the discomforts reported by Montréal’s subway operators, the STM and the union representing subway operators joined forces to ask the IRSST to quantify the level of vibrations to which the operators were exposed and make recommendations concerning a new seat for the operator cab. The summary document describes the three-part study (ergonomic study, vibration study, and design of a seat prototype), which involved a series of simulations and laboratory and actual-cab tests, and ultimately led to both the installation of new seats and modifications to the operator cab. It also illustrates how the process was facilitated by the formation of a working group and steering committee involving the joint representation and active participation of all stakeholders concerned, as well as researchers and a consultant.

In fact, the STM and the union representing subway operators regarded the process used in this project as highly promising. “We even stipulated in our subsequent call for tenders that the design process for operator cabs in the newest generation of subway trains had to apply several aspects of this participatory and joint representation process. We also hope that this collaborative approach will serve as a source of inspiration for anyone faced with a project posing similar challenges,” explained Claude Pasquarelli, superintendent of train operations at the STM, and Michel Lauzier, occupational health and safety representative at Syndicat CA-OM-SC SCFP 1983. According to Sylvie Beaugrand, the IRSST ergonomist who was involved in the project, “the process described here clearly illustrates the type of research that is both valued by the IRSST and facilitates interaction between researchers and those requesting the study. We sought the active participation of these partners right from the outset to ensure that the research would meet their needs and have long-term benefits,” she concluded.

The document can be consulted free of charge at http://www.irsst.qc.ca/

Jacques Millette
Manager of Public Affairs, IRSST
514 288-1551, ext. 210

Sylvie Beaugrand
514 288-1551, ext. 254


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