Current issue: 57(1)
The use of modern multi-functional forestry machines has already been associated with central nervous system fatigue induced by high mental workload. As these machines are being used under increasingly difficult terrain conditions, further knowledge is required on the expected aggravation of operators’ mental workload, so that suitable work/rest schedules can be developed. Within such a context, the aim of this study was to gauge aggravations of mental workload derived from increasing slope gradient. Measurements of eye activity were obtained from a representative harvester operator working in corridors with the following mean inclinations: 9%, 23% and 47%. The duration, frequency and trajectory of eye movements were used to determine the harvester operator’s mental workload, on the assumption that worsening work conditions would be reflected by increased eyeball activity. The number of fixations during the performance of all tasks increased with the increasing slope gradient. Similarly, fixation duration increased with slope gradient. The mean duration of saccades when working on a 23% slope was 5% shorter compared to work under a 9% gradient. A further significant shortening of saccade duration (~22%) occurred when working on a 47% slope. The good match between eye activity cycles and work cycles, visible especially on steep slopes, indicates that mental workload is related to work conditions. Overall, operating a forest harvester on steep slopes results in a greatly increased mental workload and calls for suitable rest schedules.