Sleep an important factor in ensuring safety of firefighters during bushfires, study reveals

A new study published in the International Journal of Wildland Fire – Sleep in wildland firefighters: what do we know and why does it matter, found that sleep is an important factor in helping firefighters avoid safety risks during bushfires.

Lead author, Dr. Grace Vincent from CQUniversty says recent research has highlighted the quantity and quality of sleep as a significant and potentially modifiable factor impacting operational performance.

She said firies sleep is restricted during deployments to bushfires, particularly when shifts have early start times or long durations, and when firefighters are sleeping in temporary accommodation. Other factors can include smoke, heat, and noise.

The researchers recommend provision of cool, dark and quiet sleeping environments.

“Incorporating their likely higher fatigue risk into next-day (or night) planning is critical,” said Dr. Vincent.

“The trigger points for employing these countermeasures may change within and between deployments.

“Work shifts should be structured to provide rest periods during shifts and sufficient recovery opportunities between shifts.

“Increasing levels of ‘sleep knowledge’ within fire agencies can help them structure work patterns and fatigue management policies, in order to avoid accident and injury risk amongst firefighters.”

The study was conducted by researchers from CQUniversity, Deakin University, and Monash University.

Dr. Vincent said long-term effects of sleep restriction on firefighters’ physiological and mental health require further research.

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