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Firefighter feedback during active cooling: A useful tool for heat stress management?

journal contribution
posted on 01.12.2014, 00:00 authored by Robert Savage, Cara Walker, Brianna Larsen, T L Knight, P D Langridge, Brad AisbettBrad Aisbett
Monitoring an individual's thermic state in the workplace requires reliable feedback of their core temperature. However, core temperature measurement technology is expensive, invasive and often impractical in operational environments, warranting investigation of surrogate measures which could be used to predict core temperature. This study examines an alternative measure of an individual's thermic state, thermal sensation, which presents a more manageable and practical solution for Australian firefighters operating on the fireground. Across three environmental conditions (cold, warm, hot & humid), 49 Australian volunteer firefighters performed a 20-min fire suppression activity, immediately followed by 20 min of active cooling using hand and forearm immersion techniques. Core temperature (Tc) and thermal sensation (TS) were measured across the rehabilitation period at five minute intervals. Despite the decline in Tc and TS throughout the rehabilitation period, there was little similarity in the magnitude or rate of decline between each measure in any of the ambient conditions. Moderate to strong correlations existed between Tc and TS in the cool (0.41, p<0.05) and hot & humid (0.57, p<0.05) conditions, however this was resultant in strong correlation during the earlier stages of rehabilitation (first five minutes), which were not evident in the latter stages. Linear regression revealed TS to be a poor predictor of Tc in all conditions (SEE=0.45-0.54°C) with a strong trend for TS to over-predict Tc (77-80% of the time). There is minimal evidence to suggest that ratings of thermal sensation, which represent a psychophysical assessment of an individual's thermal comfort, are an accurate reflection of the response of an individual's core temperature. Ratings of thermal sensation can be highly variable amongst individuals, likely moderated by local skin temperature. In account of these findings, fire managers require a more reliable source of information to guide decisions of heat stress management.



Journal of Thermal Biology




65 - 71


Elsevier Limited


Oxford, United Kingdom





Publication classification

C Journal article; C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2014, Elsevier