Current issue: 54(3)
Under compilation: 54(4)
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.
Industrial chipping is becoming increasingly popular, as the result of a growing demand for woody biomass. Industrial chippers are large, powerful machines that generate much noise and vibration. This study explored some factors that may affect exposure to noise and vibration, namely: feedstock type (branches vs. logs), work station characteristics (truck cab vs. separate cab) and knife wear (new knives vs. blunt knives). Exposure to noise was significantly affected by all three factors, and it was higher for branch feedstock, separate cabs and blunt knives. The higher exposure levels recorded for the separate cab were especially insidious, because they were below and above the hearing threshold and would elude immediate perception. Exposure to whole-body vibration (WBV) was significantly higher for branch feedstock and for the separate cab. Knife wear seemed to determine an increase in WBV, but this effect had no statistical significance and the result could not be taken as conclusive. Among the three factors studied, work station characteristics had the strongest effect. Further studies may extend the comparison to a wider range of options, as well as explore the use of exposure variation for machine diagnostics.
A time study was conducted to determine whether stem crowding had any impact on harvester productivity in Eucalyptus grandis stands. This represents an important element when trying to balance the advantages and disadvantages of coppice management in fast growing plantations designated for mechanized harvesting (i.e. machine felling, delimbing, debarking and cross-cutting). The study material consisted of 446 coppice stems, half of which grew as single stems per stool and half as double stems per stool as a result of different coppice reduction strategies. The dataset was balanced and randomized, with both subsets replicating exactly the same stem size distribution and the single and double stems alternating randomly. Harvester productivity ranged between 6 and 50 m3 under bark per productive machine hour, following the variation of tree diameter from 10 to 40 cm at breast height (1.37 m according to South African standards). Regression analysis indicated that both tree size and stem crowding (e.g. one or two stems per stool) had a significant effect on harvester productivity, which increased with stem size and decreased with stem crowding. However, operator experience may overcome the effect of stem crowding, which was not significant when the harvester was manned by a highly experienced operator. In any case, the effect of stem size was much greater than that of stem crowding, which resulted in a cost difference of less than 10%. However, this figure excludes the possible effects of stem crowding on volume recovery and stem development, which should be addressed in the future.