Evidence informed guidelines to support submarine control-room workstation design Report uri icon


  • Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) are highly prevalent throughout Australia’s population, affecting 6.9 million of all people in 2014–15; they contributed 12% of Australia’s total burden of disease and injury, and 23% of the non-fatal burden [1]. For Australia’s workforce, MSDs continue as the leading occupational health and safety problem, both in frequency and total cost, which totaled more than $24,000 million in 2012-13 [2]. The aim of this report is to examine the potential physical hazards, risks and exposures associated with the development of musculoskeletal disorders in Submarine Console operators for the Modernised Submarine Communications System Project: SEA1439 Phase 5B2. Evidence was assessed in the scientific literature across thirteen specified design criteria related to the submarine work environment. Although the Submarine Communications System consoles were the primary driver for this research, the findings have general relevance for other sedentary roles. The review examined a range of evidence including: a scoping review of relevant peer reviewed literature; a review of relevant guidelines, standards and textbooks; focus groups conducted with submariners, and Royal Australian Navy personnel anthropometric data. The literature scoping review generated 49 relevant articles, with 45 studies from 19 countries. A statement of evidence for health effects related to design criteria was developed and incorporated into the recommendations. Relevant guidelines and standards data was also incorporated into the recommendations. Engaging end users in design is widely supported as an effective method of improving a range of outcomes such as reducing injuries and improved productivity [3]. Therefore, an essential component of the report was consultation with submariners via focus groups, in addition to considering anthropometric data specific to the Royal Australian Navy personnel (ASRAN data). Whilst the focus of this report is on the physical hazards related to work, it is important not to ignore the larger system in which these workers are operating [4]. Broader environmental factors strongly influence how work is operationalised and therefore impact the development of particular hazards (physical and psychosocial) to which workers are exposed. Subsequently, the report recommendations also encompass a broad range of other factors linked to the original 13 prescribed design criteria. Currently, the majority of design criteria dimensions in the workspace do not accommodate the ASRAN anthropometric dimensions and the work demands of the RAN personnel. The report identifies a range of hazards which exist when non-compliance with ergonomic design guidance is identified and potential gaps in available evidence. A range of recommendations are provided in this report.

publication date

  • 2018