The Lighting Problem.

It is not necessary to have a scientific knowledge of motion study, physiology, and psychology, or even of hygiene, in order to make preliminary, anti-fatigue improvements in working conditions of any industrial organization that has not already had a regular fatigue survey made. We might profitably begin with lighting, since no fatigue is more wearing than eye fatigue. We attempt here only to ask a few general questions about the light. “Is there enough light, so that every one can see his own work perfectly?” “Is the light properly distributed?” “Is glare prevented?” Etc. Nearly all factory managers of to-day are careful to provide enough light for the worker. In their desire to furnish light enough, many workers often have more light than is really comfortable, and are forced to adjust their eyes constantly in order to see distinctly. The lighting to be found in most factories is not properly distributed, and seldom strikes the work at the least fatiguing angle.

The greatest fatigue from lighting, however, lies in the question of glare and reflection. One sees examples of this everywhere. It is caused largely by a misplaced pride in equipment or machinery, and by keeping everything in a high state of polish. One is often disturbed and inconvenienced in even the best equipped public libraries by the glare of the electric lights upon the shiny, varnished, or otherwise highly polished surfaces of the desks. Oftentimes we see lights carefully placed so that the individual gets light enough with his light in the right location, while lights in the distance shine in his eyes. Even when the lights are provided with adjustable shades, it is almost impossible to place one’s book in such a position that reflected light will not shine from the page to the eyes. The glare from nickel-plated machinery, be it a large factory machine or a typewriter, or any other kind of shop or office equipment, will cause fatigue, if the eye is required to work constantly in the vicinity; but the source of fatigue is not recognized. A dull black finished machine may not be as beautiful either to manufacturer or purchaser as would be a shiny, nickel-plated machine of the same design, but the main question is, “How much comfort will the operator take while using the machine?” The kind of finish of such machinery is usually affected greatly, if not determined wholly, by the question of salesmanship. Good appearances have always been a large element in making sales, and it is natural and right that the manufacturer should like his product to be attractive in appearance, and that the manager should take pride in the looks of his factory or office. But our entire standard of what is desirable in “good looks” in a work place has changed. We look now for efficiency and fatigue elimination rather than for ornament and glaring polish. We reduced fatigue, annoyance, and distraction on several pieces of work by having our clients paint nickel and other bright parts with a coat of dull black paint. For the best results to the eye, the same finish as that on the inside of a camera is to be recommended.

We are coming to realize more and more that the great test of everything is suitability, and that the mysterious and tangible thing called “suitability” simply consists of the measure of predetermined units of desired qualities. The operating room in the hospital is bare, with plain walls and rounded corners, with the least opportunity for dust lodgment, because that is most suitable to the type of work done there. The modern business desk is flat topped, with no tiny drawers or cubby-holes to collect papers and miscellaneous odds and ends, because this type of desk conforms best with present day systems of office management. In the same way all machinery and office equipment should be without so-called ornament or polish, because in this way the most work can be done with the least amount of fatigue. Our whole idea of ornament is changing. Suitability here also is the standard, and the artists have done noble work in setting an example to the trades. “Suitability” must become a slogan for every department in the organization.

The new doctrine will interest the selling department, who act as intermediaries between the manufacturing department and the public who is to buy the product. It will be a real part of the preliminary work in adjusting such conditions as lighting to take the sales department and purchasing department into conference on the subject. Let all interested see that nothing comes into or goes out of the plant until the question, “What is its relation to fatigue?” has been considered. We forget sometimes that a thing may have value not only because it has certain qualities that eliminate fatigue, but also because it lacks certain qualities that would cause fatigue.

Go, then, through your own plant with the question of glare in your mind. Examine and inspect every work place, and see what can be done. Not only for reasons of glare, but for other reasons we recommend that every work place should be inspected for unnecessary fatigue by having a man, competent in fatigue study, actually sit and stand in the working position in each and every work place in the establishment once every three months during the installation period, and not seldomer than once per year thereafter. Sometimes it will be found that moving the nearest light or shading a distant light will be all that is necessary. Sometimes a coating of dull black paint on some of the working equipment is required; sometimes the substitution of a dull-finished for a glossy paper. Sometimes dull-coloured blotting paper can be laid upon the place where the reflected glare comes. Perhaps a dull finish upon that would not only save the time of your workers, but also those who are to use the product after it leaves your hands. The world worked a great many years under the motto, “Give the public what it wants.” We are beginning to realize to-day that the public will want just exactly what it is educated to want; also that the public is easily educated if the arguments that are used are based upon measurement, and are presented in attractive form. The lighting problem is but a small element of the problem of eye fatigue. This will, however, be left for later consideration.

The Heating, Cooling, and Ventilating Problem.

This problem has to do with different aspects of seeing that the worker is provided with proper air. We are beginning to realize that the air problem is much more complicated than was formerly thought. Recent investigations have gone to prove that the temperature of the air is fully as important as the supply of air, and that humidity is another important element. In this day no one can feel satisfied with his solution of the air problem who has not submitted it to an expert, and installed the results of his measured investigation. In the meantime, safety lies on the side of providing more fresh air than is necessary. If there is plenty of fresh air, unless the work itself demands peculiar temperature or humidity conditions, the worker is fairly safe. The rest periods that are being installed will do much to solve the air problem, as they furnish an admirable opportunity for giving the work places a thorough ventilation, if not a complete “airing out.” This is not in the least to underestimate the importance of proper temperature and of proper humidity, as will be noted later. All measured records of outputs should include records of the temperature and the humidity. The accumulation of this data is daily bringing nearer the time when standards covering these will be available. In the meantime, give the worker plenty of fresh air all the time.

Fire Protection.

The average manager to-day realizes fully the necessity for fire protection. It is not, perhaps, so fully realized that the mere knowledge that there is adequate fire protection has a considerable effect upon the mental comfort of many of the workers. Nothing is more fatiguing than worry. When each worker in the establishment knows that in case of a fire he can leave the building with speed and perfect safety, he has absolutely no worry or distraction from the fire standpoint.

Fire protection should include not only seeing that the building and all it contains are made as fire-proof as possible, and installing all possible devices for putting out a fire should one start, but also the fire drill. Here the motto of the Boy Scouts is useful, “Be prepared.” There is nothing so satisfactory as preparedness. The fire drill is not only a means of handling the organization during a fire, but it is also a splendid preparation for meeting an emergency. The great problem that arises in any unexpected situation is the problem of making a decision. If one can acquire the habit of making a decision quickly, and can also make habitual certain decisions in certain situations, the resulting speed and fatigue elimination is remarkable. Make the response to the fire situation, then, standard. You will be benefiting your workers not only by teaching them how to act in any fire anywhere, but also by teaching them how to respond to a signal in a standard way. These various sets of habits in response to various stimuli should be formed in the first years of the school life, if not before. They are being formed at this time to-day to a greater extent than ever before, but unfortunately the majority of adult workers in the industries have never had such training as children. It, therefore, becomes the duty of the management to form such habits as rapidly as possible.

Safety Protection.

Safety protection in its broadest sense covers not only protection from grave dangers, but from anything that might have a harmful effect upon the worker’s body or mind. The standard to be set is that everything should be safe not only when the work is done by experienced adult workers, but even should it be done by inexperienced, immature or tired workers. We know how many accidents happen to the inexperienced worker, that would never happen to the experienced worker. We all know how many children are hurt, where an older person would see and avoid danger; and we note every day, more and more clearly, that the exhausted worker is to an enormous extent more susceptible to accidents than is the rested worker. It is usually the tired motorman who has the collision. The tired locomotive engineer passes the stop signal. The exhausted motorist is in the accident. The tired operator gets his fingers caught in the machine. The overtired sickroom attendant gives the wrong medicine.

One side of the fatigue elimination question is that fatigue elimination cuts down accidents. The other side is that cutting out the chance of accidents eliminates fatigue. Here again the question of worry is an important element. If one knows that the working conditions are absolutely safe, he can concentrate his attention upon the work in hand.

It is coming to be understood not only that it is mandatory that working conditions be made healthful, but also that it is perfectly possible, and, in most cases, easy to make such conditions healthful.

Look over your conditions, then. Put the proper safety devices on the machine, the tools, etc. Install the vacuum cleaners that will collect the dust and lint. Put the goggles or nostril-guard, or other device, on the worker, that will insure to him clean air and decent working conditions. Make a scientific attack upon the problem later, but put in a safety device now, even if you have to change some of it next week. You will gain the immediate return that will make the investigation pay from every standpoint in the changed attitude of your workers, if in nothing else. The Museum of Safety Devices, with its energetic and enthusiastic secretary, will show you what has been done and what can be done in the line of safety. “Safety First” has become the slogan of the day. If we make it “Safety First, beginning now,” we shall have full working directions.

The Work Place.

The working conditions that we have so far discussed have more or less effect upon all of the workers in a group. We come next to the inspection of the work place of each individual worker. The first consideration here is that he have room enough in which to work. There is an enormous amount of fatigue involved in doing work in an overcrowded work place, yet few workers or managers realize this. Again, habit is involved here, and the habit of order demands that the work place be kept in an orderly condition. Any one who has walked through factories, shops, or any places where work is going on must have noted the tired appearance of the workers among what is called “clutter.” The girl selling ribbon, who walks up and down behind the counter through an accumulation of paper, cardboard cores, and other odds and ends, has not only the bodily fatigue of pushing the clutter ahead, or kicking it aside, but also the mental fatigue that comes from adjusting herself constantly to such conditions. The folder of cloth, who has barely enough room to move her hands because of the supply of finished and unfinished materials, is fatigued from the clumsy position, even though she and no one else realizes this. The office worker, whose finished and unfinished papers are heaped in confusion before him, expends not only useless motions in getting at and disposing of what he wishes to handle, but also mental energy, in constantly adjusting and readjusting himself to the work. There has been a popular idea that it “looked busy” to have plenty of work around, that to see work to be done would impress both managers and workers with the need for applying themselves to the work more constantly and with considerably more speed. This may be true if the work is arranged in an orderly fashion, but disorderly work is far more likely to discourage than to stimulate the worker. As for completed work, there is no excuse for leaving large quantities of it at the work place one moment longer than is absolutely necessary. Any encouragement that it might give the worker could better be given by a record of what he has done.

The Work-bench or Table.

Few work-benches or tables should be considered as absolutely satisfactory that do not permit the worker to do his work standing or sitting. Our ideas as to proper work-benches or tables, and as to the proper placing, height, etc., of machinery and tools have too often been prescribed to us by the manufacturers of the articles, who have thought more of what was convenient to manufacture than of what was least fatiguing to use. Such manufacturers are not to be blamed in the least for their attitude. They, naturally, have been guided by what would sell best. They have, as a rule, shown themselves more than willing to supply any legitimate demand. The user must demand what will be best for his work. It is no slight, short-time job to determine the proper height, positioning, and layout of a work-bench, using this term in a general sense to cover the place of any kind of work upon which the worker is engaged. As preliminary work, we may, usually, then, boost everything that can be so lifted to such a height that the worker, at his option, may stand or sit. If it becomes a case of single choice, that is, his either standing or sitting, arrange the work so that he does it sitting, and does the necessary standing or moving about during his rest periods.


The change in industrial conditions has made this problem important. The question once was, “Can we make it of a quality that will pass?” Since the day of intensive outputs, the question has become, “How many can we make of a given quality?” In the first case, any kind of work-bench was good enough,—the worry being limited to the question of “Can we make it?” Now it is no trouble to make almost anything; but the worry is “Can we make enough so that the cost will enable us to pay the required wages and still compete, or must we give up manufacturing in this location?” This makes us think of the least fatiguing conditions and of making work-benches of two levels, etc.

The Chair or Other Fatigue-Eliminating Device.

Closely related with the work place is the work chair. It is distinct from the rest chair in that it is specially devised to be used during work periods. The ideal work chair is of such a height that the worker’s elbows will bear the same relation to the work place when he is sitting as they would if the work place were properly adjusted for him to do standing work. Types of chairs that have been designed and that are proving effective in eliminating fatigue while at work will be described more at length in the next chapter. The important point to be considered here is to adjust the work to the worker if possible. Where this is not possible, immediately, adjust the worker as best you can to the work. Make the relation of his elbows to the work the deciding point. If at present the work must be done standing, and the worker is too small, and it is easier to raise the worker than lower the work-bench or table, provide some sort of a stand or platform that will put him at the proper level. If he is large, raise the work-bench by lengthening the legs, or adding a false top, or, in some rare cases, by lowering the standing place. If the work is seated work, adjusting the chair will probably be the simplest change to make. Arm rests often afford an immediate and immense relief, but must fit the particular arm and be adjustable for best results. A head-rest may also be a valuable first aid, though often a later improvement in working methods will eliminate so much eye and head fatigue that the head-rest will not be needed. In other types of work, the foot-rest will often do the most immediate good. If every manager were made to sit for a certain number of hours to-day with his feet hanging, there would be an enormous increase in the number of foot rests in our industrial plants to-morrow morning.

Placing the Material Worked On.

In cases where it is difficult to readjust the work place, much fatigue may often be eliminated by placing the work in a better position. In fact this aspect of the problem should always be considered along with the readjustment of the work itself. For example, in folding handkerchiefs, a folder may be seated at a table, folding directly on the table. The table may be too low for the work. If she is given a board upon which to fold, this may not only put her work itself at the proper height, but it is also possible, with trifling added expense, to provide her with a table in two adjoining sections at two different heights, and a sloping board that will make the work less fatiguing, as she can maintain a much better posture. She will also be enabled to put the finished product at a lower level. This will increase speed, while at the same time eliminating fatigue, which is, of course, an ideal condition.

In considering the placing of materials, we must consider also the manner in which the materials come to the worker and in which they leave him. Our later method study will make so many changes here that only very apparent, necessary, and inexpensive improvements should be made at this stage. Be sure, however, that you are using gravity wherever it can be used to advantage. Often we have found a small belt conveyor to be helpful in cutting down the hand transportation.

The Placing of Tools and Devices.

Gravity and mechanical means can be of use here, especially in carrying working equipment back to the place where it remains when not in use. Many preliminary improvements can also be made by standardizing the place where the tool is to be left when not in use. There is not only the bodily fatigue of bringing the tool from a more distant place than is necessary, there is also the unconscious fatigue of constantly deciding such unimportant questions as where it is to be placed.

The Clothing of the Worker.

In an excellent series of articles on dress, published some years ago, Miss Tarbell laid down the rule that “suitability” is the final test of a costume. It is with this in mind that the clothing worn by the members of the organization while at work should be examined. It must be said, in the first place, that there is no more reason for the common custom of the worker providing his special outer clothing while at work than there is for his providing his other tools and equipment. In other times, the workmen of many trades preferred to provide their own tools, and did so, but in a scientifically managed plant to-day, the workers are provided by the management with standard tools. The management has standardized the best in a tool, and keeps it in the best possible working condition. In the same way, it should be the duty of the management to provide special working clothes, when they have been standardized. This involves, of course, the problem of laundering, which may seem complicated to one who is not acquainted with what has been done in this field.

There has been very little done in most kinds of work to provide a costume, designed to conform to motion economy and least fatigue, that is, at the same time, useful, artistic, and pleasing. Progress has been rendered even slower by the fact that many workers have a prejudice against such garments, feeling that they show a class distinction. All that is necessary is to create a fashion of wearing such garments, like the fashion of wearing atelier or studio clothes. In no place can an example of unsuitable clothing be more clearly seen than in the laundry industry. Much of the work done in the typical laundry is done while standing, and the women who form a majority of the workers wear clothes, and particularly shoes that make the work far more fatiguing than it need be. Yet in this very industry some of the most progressive work to improve conditions is being done. In Europe a shoe with a thick wooden sole and a heavy leather upper over the front part of the foot only is considered the most comfortable and least fatiguing. It is also certainly the cheapest and most durable. But Americans will not wear such a shoe. The shoe furnishes the most difficult feature of the costume problem. Here again the most important thing is that the “fashion” of wearing comfortable and efficient garments shall be set. We have hoped for years that sensible fashions in workers’ clothes might be set by patterning after tennis or other athletic costumes, but the time when this will become general seems as yet far distant, due to the necessity of the worker using his oldest and discarded “dress up” clothes, ultimately for his working clothes. Nevertheless, the great loss in efficiency, due to the general custom of wearing clothes that interfere with comfortable work, and that cause unnecessary fatigue, has caused us to start a campaign for the design and standardization of more suitable clothes. As yet we have had but few designs submitted in answer to our appeal to the worker to study the clothes problem for himself or herself. We are making the same appeal to the management to suggest costumes for the approval of the worker.

In order that there may be no duplication, that we may pass on good ideas, we have started a little museum where typical fatigue-eliminating devices of all sorts may be gathered, and studied by any one interested. We must next describe in some detail what is and what is not as yet there, in order to offer definite suggestions for preliminary fatigue-eliminating designs that can be used from the first day of making changes.


Preliminary fatigue elimination consists of improving lighting, heating, ventilation, fire and safety protection. It also consists of improving work places and work tables, of providing and improving chairs, and rearranging materials and tools, and studying the clothing of the worker. It aims to make immediate inexpensive changes before entering into an intensive study of the problem.