2006 Volume 44 Issue 3 Pages 414-426
This report provides a summary of research conducted through a grant provided by the Workplace Safety Insurance Board of Ontario. The research was divided into two phases; first, to define safe work limits for firefighters wearing their protective clothing and working in warm environments; and, the second, to examine strategies to reduce the thermal burden and extend the operational effectiveness of the firefighter. For the first phase, subjects wore their protective ensemble and carried their self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and performed very light, light, moderate or heavy work at 25°C, 30°C or 35°C. Thermal and evaporative resistance coefficients were obtained from thermal manikin testing that allowed the human physiological responses to be compared with modeled data. Predicted continuous work times were then generated using a heat strain model that established limits for increases in body temperature to 38.0°C, 38.5°C and 39.0°C. Three experiments were conducted for the second phase of the project. The first study revealed that replacing the duty uniform pants that are worn under the bunker pants with shorts reduced the thermal strain for activities that lasted longer than 60 min. The second study examined the importance of fluid replacement. The data revealed that fluid replacement equivalent to at least 65% of the sweat lost increased exposure time by 15% compared with no fluid replacement. The last experiment compared active and passive cooling. Both the use of a mister or forearm and hand submersion in cool water significantly increased exposure time compared with passive cooling that involved only removing most of the protective clothing. Forearm and hand submersion proved to be most effective and produced dramatic increases in exposure time that approximated 65% compared with the passive cooling procedure. When the condition of no fluid replacement and passive cooling was compared with fluid replacement and forearm and hand submersion, exposure times were effectively doubled with the latter condition. The heat stress wheel that was generated can be used by Commanders to determine safe work limits for their firefighters during activities that involve wearing their protective clothing and carrying their SCBA.