Integrate health and safety issues of workplace into design of new installations is a challenge for design engineers. The integration of ergonomics studies into design process is a proven strategy to achieve this challenge. The case presented reports the experience ergonomics integration after the basic project for new chemical laboratory facilities for petroleum research center at a Brazilian petroleum industry. The evaluation was based on usability concepts and identification of usual work situations; it was developed over the actual activities of 23 laboratories about to be transferred to a new building under construction. Due to the late integration of ergonomics into the design process, there were limited possibilities of interfering in design decisions, but still, many contributions were made to improve work conditions regarding equipment specification as laboratory bonnets, workbenches, dispensers for contaminated material and work stations.
The main recommendations made to improve work conditions at the new petroleum research facilities. The experience related may be applied by design engineers to improve new facilities projects; ergonomists working in laboratory environments.
The recommendations presented shows that ergonomic studies are not related to worker needs, but to activity needs. Upon confronting the basic project with the activities to be performed in the new space, it was ascertained that distributing equipment according only to security norms creates incompatibilities if the activity to be developed is not taken into account. Those incompatibilities may cause accidents, hinder access for equipment maintenance, provide insufficient space for contaminated material disposal and provide super estimated or overestimated space to develop laboratorial activities.
The earlier integration of ergonomics studies into the design process can prevent most of those incompatibilities. The consequence of late integration entails in the impossibility of correcting problems reproduced and which consume time and resources in reviewing project aspects. The significance of this paper is to relate the experience, so it can be applied by design engineers at future developments of new petroleum research laboratories and stimulate the integration of ergonomics into the design process so health and safety issues can be integrated in design process.