Physical work capacity of firemen. With special reference to demands during fire fighting.
During work in hot environments with a self-contained compressed air line breathing apparatus (SCCALBA) firemen perform physically arduous work and are exposed to severe heat loading. In view of the overloading risk involved, firemen should receive regular medical checkups with exercise tests and electrocardiography (ECG). Four hundred and seventeen firemen from 20 to 59 a of age in the Stockholm Fire Service performed exercise tests, including ECG, at intensities of 100, 150 and 200 W. The calculated maximal aerobic power declined with increasing age. Forty-seven firemen (11 0/0) were unable to complete the exercise test. Thirty of these men were in the oldest age group (50-59 a), of which 34 % failed to complete the test. The test was usually stopped prematurely because of physical exhaustion, but ECG changes, high blood pressure, and joint pain were also common causes of interruptions in the oldest age group. On the basis of the above results and earlier measurements during simulated fire fighting in a SCCALBA, recommendations on the future examinations of the physical work capacity of firemen are discussed. Thus, a fireman should be capable of performing bicycle ergometer work for 6 min at an intensity of 200 W. In order to allow for the age-induced decline in physical work capacity, a prospective fireman should be able to perform exercise at 250 W in the preemployment examination. It is suggested that exercise tests with ECG recordings should be performed every fifth year up to the age of 40 and every other year thereafter. Moreover, no fireman over the age of 50 should be allowed to perform fire fighting in a SCCALBA. Efficient physical training at least twice a week should be a part of every fireman`s regular duties.