A Task Analysis for the Development of Minimum Physical Employment Standards for Physically Demanding Occupations

Richard Stevenson, Andrew Siddall, Philip Turner, Keith Stokes, James Bilzon

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Employees in public safety occupations undertake a variety of activities that are both hazardous and physically demanding. Understanding the minimum requirements of these occupations and determining the physical strain encountered by employees is important to identify appropriate physical fitness standards to help ensure their safety. This study was a task analysis to identify the most important and physically demanding tasks performed by UK firefighters and objectively determine the minimum acceptable performance requirement for each of these tasks. Thirteen experienced operational personnel acted as a technical panel (TP) of subject matter experts who, through a series of focus groups, were tasked to: (a) identify the critical and most physically demanding tasks; (b) determine the method of best practice for undertaking these critical tasks and; (c) agree on the minimum acceptable level of performance for each critical task. The minimum performance standards were determined through the development of realistic simulations being performed at three different speeds. Video observation and blinded voting were used in order for TP members to independently and objectively identify a minimum acceptable pace for each task, from which a group consensus could be reached. The TP identified differences between operational firefighting and incident command roles. Those in a firefighting role performed the most arduous duties (Casualty Evacuation (CE); Equipment Carrying (EC); Hose Running (HR); Stair Climbing (SC); Wild-land Fires (WF); Lifting Ladders (LLift); Extending Ladders (LExt); Lowering Ladders (LLow)), whilst fire-ground incident commanders walked or performed SC to reach operational incidents such as wild-land fires and high rise building fires. The nature of the firefighting role is well established and the critical firefighting activities identified in this study are similar to those reported for a number of other international fire services. Unlike previous studies, we used video demonstration and observation of bespoke tasks, followed by blind expert panel voting, in order to minimise the risk of subjective bias in determining the minimum acceptable performance requirements for each task. This study formed the methodological basis for two further studies, which: 1) quantified the cardiorespiratory demands of criterion firefighting tasks and; 2) assessed the relationship between criterion firefighter task performance and surrogate tests of strength and muscular endurance. This methodology could be used to determine the minimum occupational requirements for other physically demanding occupations and, subsequently, to identify minimum physical employment standards.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2015
EventPhysical Employment Standards Conference - Canmore, Canada
Duration: 23 Aug 201526 Aug 2015


ConferencePhysical Employment Standards Conference


Dive into the research topics of 'A Task Analysis for the Development of Minimum Physical Employment Standards for Physically Demanding Occupations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this