The thermal ergonomics of firefighting reviewed

Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Henry Cotton Campus, Webster Street, Liverpool L3 2ET, United Kingdom.
Applied ergonomics (Impact Factor: 2.02). 09/2009; 41(1):161-72. DOI: 10.1016/j.apergo.2009.07.001
Source: PubMed


The occupation of firefighting is one that has repeatedly attracted the research interests of ergonomics. Among the activities encountered are attention to live fires, performing search and rescue of victims, and dealing with emergencies. The scientific literature is reviewed to highlight the investigative models used to contribute to the knowledge base about the ergonomics of firefighting, in particular to establish the multi-variate demands of the job and the attributes and capabilities of operators to cope with these demands. The job requires individuals to be competent in aerobic and anaerobic power and capacity, muscle strength, and have an appropriate body composition. It is still difficult to set down thresholds for values in all the areas in concert. Physiological demands are reflected in metabolic, circulatory, and thermoregulatory responses and hydration status, whilst psychological strain can be partially reflected in heart rate and endocrine measures. Research models have comprised of studying live fires, but more commonly in simulations in training facilities or treadmills and other ergometers. Wearing protective clothing adds to the physiological burden, raising oxygen consumption and body temperature, and reducing the time to fatigue. More sophisticated models of cognitive function compatible with decision-making in a fire-fighting context need to be developed. Recovery methods following a fire-fighting event have focused on accelerating the restoration towards homeostasis. The effectiveness of different recovery strategies is considered, ranging from passive cooling and wearing of cooling jackets to immersions in cold water and combinations of methods. Rehydration is also relevant in securing the safety of firefighters prior to returning for the next event in their work shift.

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Available from: David Barr, Jun 02, 2015
    • "In addition, significant increases in thermal strain have been demonstrated for numerous occupational ensembles relevant to firefighters and military personnel, including fully encapsulated hazard suits, body armour, and firefighting turnout equipment (Holmer et al., 1999; Rissanen et al., 2007; Caldwell et al., 2011; Larsen et al., 2011). Whilst energy cost or relative task intensity may not altered, thermal stress can diminish the capacity for personnel to perform work due to factors associated with elevated core body temperature (Montain and Coyle, 1992; Gonzalez-Alonso et al., 1999; Havenith, 1999; Barr et al., 2010). Therefore, occupational specific ensembles and/or climactic conditions may decrease the maximum acceptable work duration. "
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    ABSTRACT: This review article aims to evaluate a proposed maximum acceptable work duration model for load carriage tasks. It is contended that this concept has particular relevance to physically demanding occupations such as military and firefighting. Personnel in these occupations are often required to perform very physically demanding tasks, over varying time periods, often involving load carriage. Previous research has investigated concepts related to physiological workload limits in occupational settings (e.g. industrial). Evidence suggests however, that existing (unloaded) workload guidelines are not appropriate for load carriage tasks. The utility of this model warrants further work to enable prediction of load carriage durations across a range of functional workloads for physically demanding occupations. If the maximum duration for which personnel can physiologically sustain a load carriage task could be accurately predicted, commanders and supervisors could better plan for and manage tasks to ensure operational imperatives were met whilst minimising health risks for their workers.
    Applied Ergonomics 01/2016; 52:85-94. DOI:10.1016/j.apergo.2015.07.003 · 2.02 Impact Factor
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    • "In recent years, researches about the physiological responses of firefighters in hot environments have aroused extensive concern, which are important for the heat stress assessment and the design of the personal protective clothing (PC). The personal protective clothing, the only and irreplaceable protection for firefighters, includes a thermal layer and a moisture barrier layer to prevent heat and hot water passing through the material to the human body (Barr et al., 2010; Holmer, 2006; Park et al., 2015). However, personal protective clothing may cause discomfort and even lead to intolerable heat strain in hot environments, as the multi layers limit the heat exchange with the environmental conditions (Havenith, 1999; Perroni et al., 2014; Song et al., 2011). "
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    ABSTRACT: The aim of this study is to predict the core and skin temperatures of human wearing protective clothing in hot environments using the coupling system. The coupling system consisted of a sweating manikin Newton controlled by a multi-node human thermal model, and responded dynamically to the thermal environment as human body. Validation of the coupling system results was conducted by comparison with the subject tests. Five healthy men wearing protective clothing were exposed to the thermal neutral and high temperature environments. The skin temperatures of seven body segments and the rectal temperatures were recorded continuously. The predictions of core temperatures made by the coupling system showed good agreement with the experimental data, with maximum difference of 0.19 °C and RMSD of 0.12 °C. The predicted mean skin temperatures fell outside of the 95% CI for most points, whereas the difference between the simulated results and measured data was no more than 1 °C which is acceptable. The coupling system predicted the local skin temperatures reasonably with the maximum local skin temperature of 1.30 °C. The coupling system has been validated and exhibited reasonable accuracy compared with the experimental results. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd and The Ergonomics Society. All rights reserved.
    Applied ergonomics 11/2015; 51:363-369. DOI:10.1016/j.apergo.2015.06.002 · 2.02 Impact Factor
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    • "Wearing the protective clothing, carrying various firefighting aids and dealing with the tasks (fire suppression, search and rescue), impose a high physical burden and demand substantial energy expenditure. The fire-fighters need muscular strength, aerobic fitness, endurance in the upper and lower body, flexibility and a favorable body composition to keep them safe and ensure public safety (Barr et al. 2010). The use of FFPPC is always being an issue when ease of body movement is considered (Coca et al. 2010 "
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    ABSTRACT: Fire-fighters’ personal protective clothing is the only source of protection for fire-fighters during fire-fighting. The protective clothing should provide adequate protection as well as should be comfortable to wear. The protection and comfort requirements are always the contradicting fact in several protective clothing including fire-fighters’. Appropriate material selection, clothing design and final evaluation of the results play a critical role in predicting the clothing performance and comfort. Several researches have been done on the performance and comfort improvement of fire-fighter’s protective clothing. However, detailed review related to these parameters is not being reported in recent years. In this perspective review, we report the recent trends in the performance and comfort properties of the fire-fighters protective clothing. The clothing design and different materials used to achieve a balance between performance and comfort is illustrated. Various test standards related to the performance and comfort is also being discussed. In addition, the future scopes and challenges while designing tomorrows advanced protective clothing are cited. This would provide a guideline in terms of comfort and performance while developing and designing the fire-fighter protective clothing for different climatic conditions. Keywords: Fire-fighters’ protective clothing; Test standards; Heat stress; Performance; Comfort
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