Effect of heat on firefighters' work performance and physiology

Larsen, Brianna, Snow, Rodney and Aisbett, Brad 2015, Effect of heat on firefighters' work performance and physiology, Journal of thermal biology, vol. 53, pp. 1-8.

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Title Effect of heat on firefighters' work performance and physiology
Author(s) Larsen, Brianna
Snow, RodneyORCID iD for Snow, Rodney orcid.org/0000-0002-4796-6916
Aisbett, BradORCID iD for Aisbett, Brad orcid.org/0000-0001-8077-0272
Journal name Journal of thermal biology
Volume number 53
Start page 1
End page 8
Total pages 8
Publisher Elsevier
Place of publication Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Publication date 2015
ISSN 0306-4565
Keyword(s) Firefighting
Work output
Summary Wildland firefighters often perform their duties under both hot and mild ambient temperatures. However, the direct impact of different ambient temperatures on firefighters' work performance has not been quantified. This study compared firefighters' work performance and physiology during simulated wildland firefighting work in hot (HOT; 32°C, 43% RH) and temperate (CON; 19°C, 56% RH) conditions. Firefighters (n=38), matched and allocated to either the CON (n=18) or HOT (n=20) condition, performed simulated self-paced wildland fire suppression tasks (e.g., hose rolling/dragging, raking) in firefighting clothing for six hours, separated by dedicated rest breaks. Task repetitions were counted (and converted to distance or area). Core temperature (Tc), skin temperature (Tsk), and heart rate were recorded continuously throughout the protocol. Urine output was measured before and during the protocol, and urine specific gravity (USG) analysed, to estimate hydration. Ad libitum fluid intake was also recorded. There were no differences in overall work output between conditions for any physical task. Heart rate was higher in the HOT (55±2% HRmax) compared to the CON condition (51±2% HRmax) for the rest periods between bouts, and for the static hose hold task (69±3% HRmax versus 65±3% HRmax). Tc and Tsk were 0.3±0.1°C and 3.1±0.2°C higher in the HOT compared to the CON trial. Both pre- and within- shift fluid intake were increased two-fold in the heat, and participants in the heat recorded lower USG results than their CON counterparts. There was no difference between the CON and HOT conditions in terms of their work performance, and firefighters in both experimental groups increased their work output over the course of the simulated shift. Though significantly hotter, participants in the heat also managed to avoid excessive cardiovascular and thermal strain, likely aided by the frequent rest breaks in the protocol, and through doubling their fluid intake. Therefore, it can be concluded that wildland firefighters are able to safely and efficiently perform their duties under hot conditions, at least over six hours.
Language eng
Field of Research 110699 Human Movement and Sports Science not elsewhere classified
Socio Economic Objective 920407 Health Protection and/or Disaster Response
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2015, Elsevier
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30077126

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