Year

2013

Degree Name

Master of Science - Research

Department

School of Health Sciences

Abstract

Extensive research has shown that during emergency and rescue operations, heavy physical demands are placed upon firefighters. Employees within this field are expected to possess the necessary physical and physiological attributes to tolerate the physical demands of the occupation. Thus, it is crucial to identify firefighters who are well suited to cope with these demands. This will aim to increase the capability, whilst minimising the risk of injury, of the fire-fighting workforce. There have been numerous changes to operational requirements and equipment (Fire & Rescue NSW News, 2011) since the work done from which the current entry-level physical screening tests for New South Wales recruit firefighters are based (Gledhill and Jamnik, 1992a and 1992b). Given these changes, it has become necessary to re-evaluate the physical and physiological demands of contemporary fire fighting, as performed within Australia. Therefore, this project sought to develop bona fide (legally defensible) physiological employment standards for firefighters. Three separate investigations were conducted. The first involved a comprehensive evaluation of the demands of fire fighting to identify the most essential and physically demanding trade tasks performed by firefighters. Through an employee survey and inclusion and exclusion criteria, a list of fifteen trade tasks were established and recommended for detailed study. In the second investigation, the physical and physiological demands of these tasks were evaluated and quantified. This determined the physical and physiological attributes necessary to perform fire-fighting duties in an optimal and safe manner. Thus, a preliminary set of eleven criterion screening items were established from which a legally defensible physiological screening test could be established. Therefore, in the third investigation, a legally defensible physiological screening test for firefighters was developed. Following the development of this test, recommendations were also put forward to investigate and validate, where applicable, alternative approaches to the mere duplication or simulation of critical fire-fighting tasks which may predict fire-fighting performance. Taken collectively, these findings suggest individuals who successfully pass the developed screening test will possess the physical and physiological attributes necessary to cope with the physical and physiological demands of contemporary fire fighting, as performed within NSW, Australia.

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