The Effect of Personal Protective Equipment on Firefighter Occupational Performance

Ashley Y. Lesniak, Haley C. Bergstrom, Jody L. Clasey, Arnold J. Stromberg, Mark G. Abel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Lesniak, AY, Bergstrom, HC, Clasey, JL, Stromberg, AJ, and Abel, MG. The effect of personal protective equipment on firefighter occupational performance. J Strength Cond Res 34(8): 2165-2172, 2020-The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of load carriage (LC) and LC plus respirator use (LC + self-contained breathing apparatus [SCBA]) on firefighters' work capacity to enhance our understanding of occupational demands. Twenty-one male structural firefighter recruits (age: 28.6 ± 4.3 years; height: 178.6 ± 7.2 cm; body mass: 94.1 ± 15.4 kg; body fat: 22.9 ± 6.1%) participated. Occupational performance was assessed by time to complete a simulated fire ground test (SFGT). After 2 familiarization trials, recruits performed the following SFGT conditions in a randomized order: PT (physical training clothes), LC only, and LC + SCBA. To describe within-group differences between SFGT conditions, relative difference scores were calculated as follows: % difference = ([experimental trial outcome - PT trial outcome]/PT trial outcome) × 100. Statistical differences between conditions were assessed with repeated-measures analysis of variance. The level of significance was set p < 0.01. Time to complete the LC + SCBA trial (345.9 ± 43.7 seconds; p < 0.001) and LC-only trial (331.2 ± 39.3 seconds; p < 0.001) were significantly greater than the PT trial (241.0 ± 33.3 seconds). Post-SFGT rating of perceived exertion was higher in the LC + SCBA trial (6.7 ± 1.7) and LC trial (6.4 ± 1.5) compared with the PT trial (4.7 ± 1.8; p < 0.001). Heart rate and lactate measures were similar across conditions (p = 0.488; p = 0.287). Personal protective equipment (PPE) significantly decreases the work capacity and increases the perceived effort of occupational tasks. Thus, these findings describe the additional physical demands produced by PPE and indicate that performance of firefighting tasks in an unloaded condition does not reflect work capacity in a bona fide condition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2165-2172
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Strength and Conditioning Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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