Risk of health complaints and disabilities among Dutch firefighters

J Bos, E. Mol, B. Visser, M.H.W. Frings-Dresen

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    Abstract

    Objectives: The purpose of the present study was threefold: (1) to compare the work demands on firefighters (FFs) and office workers (OWs), (2) to compare the prevalence of health complaints and disabilities in the work situation in these two groups, and (3) to explore the effect of work demands on the risk of health complaints. Methods: Self-reported information was gathered from 1,624 FFs (55% response) and 630 OWs (80% response), at the same fire departments in different regions of the Netherlands, on work demands ('sitting', and biomechanically and energetically demanding activities and 24-h shifts), health complaints and disabilities. First, we compared the work demands and prevalence rates of health complaints and related disabilities in the two groups, then we explored the risk of health complaints in workers with high and low exposure to work demands. Results: Compared with office workers, FFs reported: (1) less exposure to 'sitting' and more to biomechanically and energetically demanding activities, (2) more knee (OWs 14% vs FFs 20%) and ankle (3% vs 10%) complaints and disabilities resulting from back complaints (30% vs 47%), and (3) less hypertension (7% vs 5%), stomach (13% vs 7%), heart (6% vs 2%), neck (26% vs 16%), shoulder (16% vs 14%) and arm (14% vs 6%) complaints. A higher risk of subjective fatigue was found in workers highly exposed to 'energetically demanding activities', and of neck, shoulder and arm complaints in workers highly exposed to 'sitting'. Conclusions: Firefighters reported higher physical demands (with the exception of 'sitting') than office workers did. The prevalence rate of certain complaints or disabilities among FFs was higher (knee and ankle complaints and disabilities related to back complaints) or lower (hypertension, stomach, heart, neck, shoulder and arm complaints) than among OWs. The results suggest that exposure to highly biomechanically demanding activities might cause an increased risk of knee and ankle complaints and that exposure to highly energetically demanding activities might increase the risk of subjective fatigue. © Springer-Verlag 2004.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)373-382
    JournalInternational Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
    Volume77
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2004

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