The purpose of this study was to investigate the relation of the level of illumination intensity to performance and fatigue in visual work. The question of illumination requirements is of considerable importance from the point of view of physiological optics, industrial physiology, and public health. Yet a large part of the research done in the past leaves much to be desired in regard to general approach and specific testing techniques as well as experimental analysis and statistical evaluation. In the present series six illumination levels (2, 5, 15, 50, 100, and 300 footcandles) were studied in repeated experiments in six normal subjects. The work task involved recognition of fine details (letters) and reproduced the essential features of a conveyor inspection operation. In addition to the studying of various criteria of work performance and their change in the course of 2 hours of work, a large battery of visual tests was applied before and after the work so as to characterize the degree of fatigue. Varied illumination affected the performance more than the functional criteria of fatigue. Only one function, the recognition time for stimuli of threshold size, showed a decreasing degree of fatigue up to 300 ft.-c, all other variables, including performance, which changed with a changing level of illumination showed an optimum at 100 ft.-c. The demonstration of an optimum level of illumination makes highly questionable the current practice of recommending “minimum” levels of illumination for industrial jobs, since deterioration of performance and increase in fatigue may result when the optimal level is exceeded. The optimum of 100 ft.-c for the present strenuous visual task is at or below the minimum which should be recommended on the basis of the code of the Illuminating Engineering Society.
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