Effects of air bottle design on postural control of firefighters

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of firefighter's self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) air bottle design and vision on postural control of firefighters. Twenty-four firefighters were tested using four 30-minute SCBA bottle designs that varied by mass and size. Postural sway measures were collected using a forceplate under two visual conditions (eyes open and closed) and two stance conditions (quiet and perturbed stances). For perturbed stance, a mild backward impulsive pull at the waist was applied. In addition to examining center of pressure postural sway measures for both stance conditions, a robustness measure was assessed for the perturbation condition. The results suggest that wearing heavy bottles significantly increased excursion and randomness of postural sway only in medial-lateral direction but not in anterior-posterior direction. This result may be due to stiffening of plantar-flexor muscles. A significant interaction was obtained between SCBA bottle design and vision in anterior-posterior postural sway, suggesting that wearing heavy and large SCBA air bottles can significantly threaten postural stability in AP direction in the absence of vision. SCBA bottle should be redesigned with reduced weight, smaller height, and COM closer to the body of the firefighters. Firefighters should also widen their stance width when wearing heavy PPE with SCBA.

Source: Hur P, Park K, Rosengren KS, Horn GP, Hsiao-Wecksler ET. Appl. Ergon. 2015; 48: 49-55.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apergo.2014.11.003

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