Older firefighters who are chronically exposed to heat stress on the job could be more heat resilient over time. A recent study published in the December issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH) found that older firefighters may be able to tolerate more challenging or arduous work environments before they feel affected by the heat, compared to non-heat-exposed workers who would need to stop work prematurely.
"We found that the firefighters experienced reduced subjective feelings of thermal and cardiovascular strain during exercise compared to the non-firefighters, potentially indicative of greater heat resilience in firefighters due to the nature of their occupation," said study investigator Glen P. Kenny, PhD, a professor at the School of Human Kinetics at the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada.
The researchers examined a group of older, physically active non-firefighters and firefighters, approximately 51 years old, during intermittent exercise in two heat stress conditions, to investigate the potential thermal, cardiovascular and hydration effects of repeated occupational heat stress.
While Kenny and his colleagues found no differences in the level of thermal and cardiovascular strain between the older heat-exposed firefighters and non-heat-exposed older workers, the non-heat-exposed workers felt more heat stressed relative to the older firefighters and felt that the work performed was physically more challenging.