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Firefighter Studies 

Effects of Heat Stress on Firefighters’ Postural Balance during Live Fire Fighting (2010-2014)

Kelley James - MS Thesis 2014

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to measure the effect of physically demanding tasks performed under hot environment on postural balance characteristics of firefighters. The study design was to evaluate the impact of heat stress on postural balance of firefighters during live burn training using wearable, wireless, multi-dimensional gyroscopes and accelerometers. Heat stress and physical exertion levels were quantified using a wearable sensors system consisting of a “Bioharness” and an FDA approved ingestible radio pill (CoreHQ). These wearable sensors provided firefighters’ heart rate and core body temperature during live burn training. Postural balance was measured with a wireless wearable sensor.  Collectively, these outcomes were used to assess the physiological effects of heat stress on firefighters. 

A graph showing an increased instability in balance of a firefighter versus a non-firefighter. A photo of a firefighter balancing on one leg.

Postural Stability of Firefighter (Blue=pre-firefighting; red=post-firefighting)

Publications: Singh U, Mani A, James K, Rao M B and Bhattacharya A, “Effects of Heat Exposure from Live-Burn Fire Training on Postural Stability of Firefighters” Ergonomics Int J, Vol 3 (4), 2019; DOI: 10.23880/eoij-16000213 (PDF)

Mani A, Rao MB, James K, Bhattacharya A. “Individualized Prediction of Heat Stress in Firefighters: A Data-driven Approach using Classification and Regression Trees” J Occup Environ Hyg. Vol 12: 845–854 2015. DOI: 10.1080/15459624.2015.10692 (PDF)

Mani A, Musolin K, James K, Kincer G, Alexander B, Succop P, Lovett W, Jetter W, Bhattacharya A, “Risk factors associated with live fire training: buildup of heat stress and fatigue, recovery and role of micro-breaks” Occupational Ergonomics Vol 11 (2,3): 109–121, 2013; DOI 10.3233/OER-130212. (PDF)

Long Working Hours on Postural Balance of Firefighters (2002-2003)

(NIOSH funded ERC Pilot Project Research grant)

PI: T. Sobeih, MD

Problem: Traditional 24 on & 28 off work schedule caused a concern of Firefighters working too many straight hours without adequate recovery. Research showed association between long work hours and postural balance as fatigue built up. 

Solution: Changed work-shifts to 24 hours on & 72 hours off.

Impact: This change has reduced injuries and lost work days. Firefighters had longer recovery times.

A graph showing a decreased balance in relation to time on work shift. A fatigue zone is highlighted after 36 hours. Also present is a photo of a firefighter on a balance measurement plate.

Publication: Sobeih T, Davis K, Succop P, Jetter W, and Bhattacharya A, “Postural Balance Changes in On-Duty Firefighters: Effect of Gear and Long Work Shifts” J. of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 48:68-75, 2006. PMID: 16404212. (PDF)

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Department of Environmental & Public Health Sciences
Kettering Lab Building
160 Panzeca Way
Cincinnati, OH 45267-0056
Mail Location: 0056

Phone: 513-558-5701