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: 1.11). 09/2009; 41(1):161-72. DOI: 10.1016/j.apergo.2009.07.001
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT 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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