Background Every seafarer must be able to perform both, normal duties and emergency situations on board ship. There are few studies of the physical demands of emergency duties on board ship. The aim of the study was to measure the physical strain during emergency training drill (basic safety training BST), which is mandatory for every seafarer. Some of the maritime emergency tasks (like smoke diving) are much heavier than the emergency duties in basic safety training. Therefore BST tasks form the minimum strain level every seafarer has to perform.
Methods Eighteen firefighting male seafarers and five other female seafarers aged 24–45 were recruited to study. They all attended to physical examination and to fitness tests. Ability to perform 100 metre’s swimming in rough sea, climbing ladders up, turning an upturned life raft, and climbing to a life raft from water were tested in a maritime safety training centre. Physical strain of these tasks was assessed by heart rate variability method and by Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale.
Results Results of the heart rate variability show that even in good physical shape the tasks tested are causing strain and load peaks. Swimming was causing the highest strain; the physical load among males was 7.9 (4–11) MET and perceived exertion was 12 (8–14). Climbing ladders up caused the lowest strain 6 (3–9) MET. The average physical load of climbing to a life raft was 7 MET and turning of an upturned life raft was about at the same level. On average, the women strained more than the males.
Conclusions The tasks in simulated rescue training cause short term aerobic strain in controlled environment. In real life settings the emergency tasks are more demanding. Poor aerobic fitness is a risk factor for exhaustion and accidents during emergency situations. This is not only a risk for the safety of the vessel and other crew but it also puts seafarer’s own life in danger in emergency situations. Based on these results even the safe rescue training requires at least normal performance capacity. It is however highly important to support the physical rehabilitation and exercise training of the seafarers with decreased fitness, because the appropriate rescue training improves skills and reduces strain. The functional resources to manage rescue activities should be included in health examinations.
- emergency situations
- physical demands
- occupational safety
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