In a new partnership, UniSA, the SA Metropolitan Fire Service (MFS) and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, are hoping to spearhead new research designed to give firefighters the best chance to stay, safe, fit and effective on the job.
The new partnership will support an industry-based PhD scholarship to investigate firefighters, as occupational athletes, and develop a range of tools so that they can monitor and evaluate their fitness throughout their careers.
UniSA’s leading exercise and sports scientist, Professor Kevin Norton says firefighting has some of the most stringent entry fitness criteria of any career, but no strong framework for maintaining relevant fitness for the work involved.
“Firefighters are generally active types, often triathletes, or active in other sports, and to some extent, the industry relies on their personal commitment to fitness,” Prof Norton says.
“But research shows that fitness and preparedness in one activity, doesn’t guarantee a person is ready for a different set of physical challenges.
“What the MFS has recognised is the importance of working with firefighters on the ground, to uncover the evidence for a strength and fitness regime appropriate for the demands of the job.
“The ultimate goal will be to develop a framework that supports better outcomes for firefighters and ensures they have a training regime that will help them to operate safely in the often extreme and physically taxing emergency services environment.”
The $122,500 scholarship will support a PhD candidate for 3.5 years and applications close on November 16, 2018.
MFS Chief Officer Michael Morgan says the partnership represents the first time such industry-focussed research has been done in Australia related to firefighter fitness.
“Industry related fitness programs do exist, but through this PhD research we will be framing something that is both evidence-based and designed for and with firefighters, cognisant of the challenges of shift work, and of the physical demands of firefighting,” MFS Chief Officer Morgan says.
“In developing a relevant strength and fitness training map we hope to give firefighters some tools to support greater health and safety and fewer on the job injuries.”