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Work tolerance and subjective responses to wearing protective clothing and respirators during physical work.
White MK; Vercruyssen M; Hodous TK
Ergonomics 1989 Sep; 32(9):1111-1123
The effects of protective clothing and respirator ensembles worn during alternating work/rest exercise bouts of moderate (low intensity) and heavy (high intensity) physical work on work tolerance and worker subjective states were investigated. Nine male subjects participated in this study. Their task was performed on a Quinton motor driven treadmill at a set walking speed and either 30 or 60 percent of maximum aerobic capacity for each individual while not wearing any protective ensemble. Four protective ensembles were selected for study: a control ensemble of light work clothing (CON); a light work clothing ensemble with an open circuit self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA); firefighter's turnout gear with SCBA (FF); and chemical protective clothing with SCBA (CHEM). Test duration was determined by physiological responses reaching a predetermined indicator of high stress or by a 180 minute limit. Differences between clothing ensemble and work intensity were significant. FF and CHEM heart rate responses did not reach a steady state and rose rapidly compared to CON and SCBA ensembles. SCBA heart rates remained about 15 beats higher than CON ensemble rates throughout the tests. Subjective data indicated that subjects were able to perceive relative degrees of physiologic strain under laboratory conditions. Significant and potentially dangerous thermoregulatory and cardiovascular stress was noted during the wearing of protective clothing and respirators, even at low work intensities. FF caused the most stress, followed by the CHEM, SCBA, and CON protective ensembles in decreasing order of stress.
NIOSH-Author; Personal-protective-equipment; Firemen; Protective-clothing; Respiratory-protective-equipment; Worker-health; Psychological-stress; Physiological-response
Issue of Publication
ME; WV; CA
Page last reviewed: September 4, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division