Identification of Physically Demanding Tasks Performed During Storm Damage Operations by Australia State Emergency Services Personnel

Presentation at Research Forum of the 2012 Bushfire CRC and AFAC Annual Conference.

Purpose: To identify and characterize the physically demanding tasks performed by SES personnel during storm damage work.

Methods: Thirty-six tasks identified as the most operationally important to storm damage work were included in a survey which was available to all SES volunteers. The survey aimed to identify the physical demand, operational importance, frequency, duration, principal actions and fitness components of each task.

Results: Twelve tasks were identified as the most physically demanding. Of these, carrying sandbags, lifting sandbags and shovelling sand (with hands) rated highest. Covering roof damages with tarpaulin and erecting external weather proofing were ranked highest for operational importance. Box lifting (single-person) and erecting external weather proofing returned the highest mode values for frequency, whereas tasks involving handling sandbags returned the highest mean and median frequency values. Covering roof damages with tarpaulin was identified as the longest task. Bend, lift, twist and carry were the most common actions identified for the physically demanding tasks. Muscular strength and muscular endurance were the primary fitness components identified as important for all twelve tasks.

Conclusion: SES personnel perform a variety of tasks, many of which are physically demanding. All or most of the physically demanding tasks contain elements of bending, lifting, twisting and carrying, and call upon personnel's muscular strength and muscular endurance capabilities. Such findings show similarities with the work performed by other emergency service workers. 

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