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What do we know about ageing at work? Evidence-based fitness for duty and health in fire fighters

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This study sought to collect evidence on age and workability in fire fighters, using systematic international literature searches, interviews, and secondary analyses from Dutch fire fighter studies. Recent decades have witnessed growing demands on fire fighters, who face peak task demands during duty. Older Dutch fire fighters experience greater emotional and mental demands than their younger colleagues. Huge inter-individual variation emerged in task performance with over six-fold differences in time-on-tasks and the percentage heart rate reserve between and within age groups. However, no age-effect was observed in lifting capacity during simulations. Compared to their youngest colleagues, older Dutch fire fighters face a six-fold increase in the risk of health complaints. The international literature lacks psychological age effects studies. Semi-functional tests, (e.g. exercise stress testing or push-ups) do not predict workability. Regular screening of fire fighters, using multi-modal functional tests that closely simulate real job activities, is recommended.
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Keywords: Ageing; Fire fighters; Fitness for duty

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Academic Medical Center, Department: Coronel Institute of Occupational Health, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, DE, The Netherlands

Publication date: November 1, 2007

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