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Effect of Protective Equipment on Firefighters' External and Internal Workloads During a Simulated Rescue Intervention

Marcel-Millet, Philémon; Ravier, Gilles; Groslambert, Alain

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: August 2022 - Volume 36 - Issue 8 - p 2291-2297, doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003551


The extent of firefighter protective equipment can cause psycho-physiological stress during rescue situations. This study tested the relationships and compare different workload methods to single out 3 firefighter protective equipment conditions based on simulated rescue intervention.


The protective equipment was:

1. Personal protective clothing (PPC-only).

2. PPC and a self‐contained breathing apparatus, including a cylinder, full‐face piece, and a breathing regulator (PPC-SCBA+).

3. PPC and only the cylinder of the SCBA (PPC-C).

Workload was determined using methods based on:

1. Heart rate (HR).

2. Perceived exertion (PE).

3. Acceleration (ACC).

4. An indirect method based on postexercise HR variability.

Differences between conditions were analyzed with repeated-measures analyses of variance. Relationships between workload methods were determined using Pearson's correlations. Statistical significance was set at p < 0.05.


The HR-based and PE methods showed higher values in the PPC-SCBA+ and PPC-C conditions as compared to the PPC-only condition.

Only the PE method had a higher workload for the PPC-SCBA+ condition as compared to the PPC-C condition.

ACC-based workloads were lower in the PPC-SCBA+ and PPC-C conditions as compared to the PPC condition.

The indirect method revealed no difference between the 3 conditions.

Significant relationships were observed between the HR-based and PE methods.

Inverse significant correlations were observed between the HR-based and PE methods and the acceleration workload methods.

Although HR-based and PE methods might quantify the workloads, the PE method was more sensitive to discriminate between the PPC-C and PPC-SCBA+ conditions.


The greater the amount of protective equipment worn by a firefighter 1) increases the heart rate, 2) decreases the ability to perform quickly, and 3)  increases the perceived level of difficulty in performing a rescue task.

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