Author(s): Park K, Hur P, Rosengren KS, Horn GP, HsiaoWecksler ET
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Abstract The air bottle configuration (mass and size) used with a firefighter's self-contained breathing apparatus may affect functional gait performance and slip/trip/fall risk, contributing to one of the most common and costly fire ground injuries to this population. To examine the potential effect of bottle mass and size on firefighter gait performance, four 30-min air bottle configurations were tested. To quantify biomechanical gait performance, kinetic and kinematic gait data were collected on 24 male firefighters while walking at normal and fast speeds during three conditions (no obstacle, 10 cm or 30 cm stationary obstacle). Bottle mass, obstacle height and walking speed - but not bottle size - were found to significantly impact gait parameters. Ten subjects (42\%) contacted the taller obstacle while wearing heavier bottles, suggesting greater risk for tripping. Heavier bottles also resulted in larger forces by the trailing leg in both the anterior-posterior and vertical directions, suggesting greater risk for slipping. These results suggest that increased bottle weight may result in a decrease in gait performance and an increase in fall risk. STATEMENT OF RELEVANCE: Occupations, such as firefighting, often require use of a self-contained breathing apparatus that includes a pressurised air bottle. No systematic assessment has investigated how modest changes in load carriage due to bottle configuration (mass and size) might affect gait behaviour, especially when crossing obstacles. Bottle mass, but not size, was found to decrease gait performance and increase fall risk.
This article was published in Ergonomics
and referenced in Journal of Ergonomics