Awake and Smoky and Hot (ASH) is unique. The industry-specific study duplicates uncomfortable fireground conditions such as long working hours and limited sleep, heat and smoke with firefighters required to perform common fireground tasks such as lifting and dragging.
Brad Aisbett from the Deakin University and Sally Ferguson of Central Queensland University are overseeing the project along with CFA’s Manager of Research and Development David Nichols.
“Firefighting is often hot, dirty work carried out over consecutive days,” explains Brad. “Sometimes it’s fast and furious and other times it’s important to pace your energy across a task such as mopping up. The labour, discomfort and exhaustion all build on each other and it’s an accumulation of stressors that have a physical and cognitive effect.
“Our aim is to study participants in conditions that replicate real-life bushfire environments as much as possible, so that Australian fire agencies can develop best-practice guidelines and training based on hard data. Eight different scenarios combine different levels of work, sleep, heat and smoke so we get back a wide range of data.”
Participants live in a controlled environment for four days and undertake three days of physical and decision-making tasks. These range from hand/eye coordination tasks to computer work, driving scenarios, raking and dragging. Members will attempt to stay sharp through complex mental tasks, taking in information without responding inappropriately to stimulus. They will also strive to maximise their productivity in the physical tasks across the three work days.
“We want to work with the depth and breadth of our workforce,” says David, “because the ultimate aim is greater health and safety for all our firefighters. This study is in a direct line with safety measures such as the development of minimum skills training and crew protection on trucks. They all have in depth research behind them.”
Members are encouraged to consider seeking medical advice before taking part.