Physical load and performance. Effects of age and experience on rescue services' tasks


  • Danielsson Ulf
  • Leray Henri
  • Bergh Ulf

Publish date: 2002-01-01

Report number: FOI-R--0467--SE

Pages: 33

Written in: Swedish


Smoke diving is considered as the most strenuous task in the rescue services. This study shows that also common fireman activities can be as physical demanding as smoke diving if these are performed rapidly. Fifty full-time employed firemen, from 23 to 50 years of age, participated and so did 80 young candidates for fireman, mean age 27 years and 5 young well-trained women. Experience and familiar with the equipment were expected to produce shorter work time and or better quality in performance. This could not be verified. Generally, the younger firemen performed the activities quicker and better. Still faster were the candidates in spite of no fireman experience. The quality of their jobs were however rated somewhat lower, except in comparison with the eldest group of firemen. Among the male subjects the eldest were slowest and rated worst in respect of quality. The females were rated still worse. They were also the slowest group except when carrying fire hose containers and connecting hoses. Then they produced similar results as the eldest firemen. Obviously, young candidates can perform well as a fireman after a short job introduction. This is good as competent firemen can be available quickly. Older firemen involve problems. Obviously, the paid working hours for physical training do not compensate for the effect of age relative the younger ones. But obviously, even common activities are poorly trained, indicated by the results of the candidates being as good as or even better than those of the firemen. The eldest group was worst in remembering and to rationally perform the series of activities, indicating shortcomings in attention and rutines. The study confirms once again that women have great problems when facing muscular demands. The female group is comparable with the elder firemen in respect of physical endurance. But when they have to perform heavy muscular work they are left behind significantly. Probably, there are several fireman activities that can not be accomplished by women at all. The difference in performance between gender but also between younger and older firemen can be reduced if the number of muscular strength demanding activities are minimised. Certain pieces of equipment should also be modified. Most women can e.g. not connect big hoses without support because of small hands.