Impact of SCBA size and firefighting work cycle on firefighter functional balance

Richard M. Kesler, Grace S. Deetjen, Faith F. Bradley, Michael J. Angelini, Matthew N. Petrucci, Karl S. Rosengren, Gavin P. Horn, Elizabeth T. Hsiao-Wecksler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Slips, trips and falls are leading causes of fireground injuries. A functional balance test (FBT) was used to investigate the effects of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) size and design, plus firefighting work cycle. During the FBT, subjects walked along a narrow platform and turned in defined spaces, with and without an overhead obstacle. Thirty firefighters wore three varying-sized standard SCBAs and a low-profile prototype SCBA during three simulated firefighting work/rest cycles. Firefighters were tested pre- and post-firefighting activity (one bout, two bouts with a 5-min break, or back-to-back bouts with no break). Subjects committed more errors and required longer completion times with larger SCBAs. Use of the prototype SCBA lead to lower times and fewer errors. Performing a second bout of firefighting increased completion time. Firefighters need to consider how SCBA and amount of physical activity on the fireground may influence balance in order to reduce the risk of injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-119
Number of pages8
JournalApplied Ergonomics
StatePublished - May 2018


  • Firefighting
  • Functional balance
  • Self-contained breathing apparatus
  • Work cycle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)

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