Monday, July 14, 2008

A Question Of Hygiene.

        The recent epidemic which we have called influenza, because we know of no better name, has robbed the photographic profession of some of its best known members, while others, happily recovered, have suffered severely from it. As it is well known that the disease is most likely to attack those whose vitality has been impaired by any cause, it is worth while considering the conditions under which many photographers work.
        Comparatively few photographic businesses are carried on in premises built for the purpose, and in contriving accommodation for the various branches of work there is often over crowding and poor ventilation, both of which are inimical to health. It is, perhaps, in the dark-room that the worst conditions prevail, and now that bromide paper is so universally employed for printing, a much larger proportion of the working-day is spent therein than was the case when daylight printing was almost exclusively the practice. In excluding white light from an ordinary room there is always a great risk of excluding air as well, and, unfortunately, few dark-rooms are so contrived that when not actually in use they can be thrown open so that light and air are freely admitted. For it must not be forgotten that light has a purifying effect equal to, if not superior to, fresh air. In many cases the door forms the only source of ventilation, and, when closed, the unhappy operator has to breathe the same air over and over again. A good many years ago we were consulted with regard to a dark-room lamp which the purchaser declared was faulty, as, after being lighted for a few minutes, it commenced to smoke and gave practically no light. The dealer from whom it was purchased tested it in his shop and pronounced it to be in good order. This was also the case when we tried it. Finally, we ascertained that the dark-room was only about six feet square, and that it had a well-fitting door, so that "the light that failed" did so through lack of oxygen. If an electric bulb had been used instead of a paraffin lamp the question would not have arisen, but the operator's health would certainly have suffered. We have seen in a prosperous West-End business a dark-room which could only be used by opening the window for a few minutes after developing each set of plates. This allowed a change of air which was quickly used up by the two assistants working there, rendering another stoppage necessary. Here was a waste of time from a business point of view, besides incalculable damage to the health of the unfortunate inmates. It is not always realized that a gas or oil flame, which does much to vitiate the atmosphere of the dark-room, may, with a little ingenuity, be used to create a current for ventilating purposes. Even the electric bulb is of some value in this way, and the small half watts with their much greater heating power should be quite effective. Dampness in the dark-room is another fruitful source of ill-health, and we fear that this condition is often concurrent with bad ventilation, making a truly fatal combination. At least one instance of robust man contracting tuberculosis through working in such a room has recently come under our notice.
        We emphasize the necessity for a sanitary dark-room on account of the much greater proportion of time which is now spent in it. When daylight printing was used for the bulk of the work, perhaps two hours a day was the limit of time for which the operator was actually boxed up; but with bromide nipper as the only medium, he is shut up practically the whole day. Although we have inferred that a printing-out process is healthier for the worker than bromide in a badly ventilated room, it is quite possible to conduct it under adverse conditions, the use of the open arc for printing necessitating much more space and, better ventilation than is generally provided. We have in our mind one work-room where three huge pairs of carbons were being used for printing platinotypes giving off unsupportable fumes, while a large dry- mounting press further poisoned the air. The girl employees looked like candidates for the hospital, and we were not surprised to learn that changes in the staff were frequent.
        The war hag taught us many things, especially with regard to lab our, and nothing has been more clearly demonstrated than that true economy of lab our consists in keeping the worker fit by providing healthy workrooms, working a moderate number of hours, and promoting cheerfulness generally. One bad practice which is common in most small businesses is for the workers to remain indoors during meal times. This should be discouraged, and except in bad weather a little outdoor exercise should be taken. If there is a lassitude and disinclination to do this it may generally be assumed that there is something which requires attention in the state of the premises.
        The more sedentary the occupation the greater the necessity for outdoor recreation and exercise. "Health systems" are too dull for most people and are not likely to be persevered in, but walking, cycling, rowing, swimming, tennis, net-ball, and even football and hockey are all valuable medicines, not unpleasant to take, and the employer will do well for himself as well as for his staff if he practices one or other if possible, and encourages his staff to engage in such recreation.

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