Work Functioning Among Firefighters: A Comparison Between Self-Reported Limitations and Functional Task Performance
Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation
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© 2018, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature. Purpose Performance-based and disease indicators have been widely studied in firefighters; self-reported work role limitations have not. The aim of this study was to describe the distributions and correlations of a generic self-reported Work Limitations Questionnaire (WLQ-26) and firefighting-specific task performance-based tests. Methods Active firefighters from the City of Hamilton Fire Services (n = 293) were recruited. Participants completed the WLQ-26 to quantify on-the-job difficulties over five work domains: work scheduling (4 items), output demands (7 items), physical demands (8 items), mental demands (4 items), and social demands (3 items). A subset of participants (n = 149) were also assessed on hose drag and stair climb with a high-rise pack performance-based tests. Descriptive statistics and correlations were used to compare item/subscale performance; and to describe the inter-relationships between tests. Results The mean WLQ-26 item scores (/5) ranged from 4.1 to 4.4 (median = 5 for all items); most firefighters (54.5–80.5%) selected “difficult none of the time” response option on all items. A substantial ceiling effect was observed across all five WLQ-26 subscales as 44.0–55.6% were in the highest category. Subscale means ranged from 61.8 (social demands) to 78.7 (output demands and physical demands). Internal consistency exceeded 0.90 on all subscales. For the hose drag task, the mean time-to-completion was 48.0 s (SD = 14.5; range 20.4–95.0). For the stair climb task, the mean time-to-completion was 76.7 s (SD = 37.2; range 21.0–218.0). There were no significant correlations between self-report work limitations and performance of firefighting tasks. Conclusions The WLQ-26 measured five domains, but had ceiling effects in firefighters. Performance-based testing showed wider score range, lacked ceiling effects and did not correlate to the WLQ-26. A firefighter-specific, self-report role functioning scale may be needed to identify compromised work role capabilities in firefighters.