Skip to main content

Physiological employment standards I. Occupational fitness standards: objectively subjective?

Abstract

This paper examines the processes involved in the establishment of a minimum occupational fitness standard, with particular reference to the interplay that inevitably occurs between objective measurements and subjective decisions. The areas considered include: the determination of the critical task on which to base a standard; establishing minimum acceptable performance and methods of best practice for the execution of these tasks; determining the physical demands of a task and a reasonable relative workload; producing the final standard. Finally, the impact of the subjective component of the development of an occupational fitness standard on its defensibility is discussed. It is concluded that all standards involve some subjective aspects; the extent of these could be reduced by further research. In the meantime, it would be prudent for those developing standards to detail the rationale, methods and evidence by which subjective decisions were reached, to provide an audit trail for subsequent investigation.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Abbreviations

SD:

Standard deviation

\( \dot{V}O_{2} \) :

Oxygen consumption

\( \dot{V}O_{2\hbox{max} } \) :

Maximum aerobic power

References

  1. Allsopp AJ, Scarpello EG, Andrews S, Pethybridge RJ (2003) Survival of the fittest? The scientific basis of the royal navy pre-joining fitness test. J R Nav Medical Service 89(1):11–18

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Anderson GS, Plecas DL, Segger T (2001) Police officer physical ability testing: re-validating a selection criteria. Int J Police Strategies Manag 24(1):8–31

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Arnold J, Rauschenberger J, Soubel W, Guion R (1982) Validation and utility of a strength test for selecting steelworkers. J App Psychol 67(5):588–604

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Åstrand PO, Rodahl K (1970) Text book of work physiology, 1st edn. McGraw-Hill, New York

  5. Åstrand PO, Rodahl K (1977) Text book of work physiology, 2nd edn. McGraw-Hill, New York

  6. Bilzon JLJ, Scarpello EG, Smith CV, Ravenhill NA, Rayson MP (2001) Characterization of the metabolic demands of simulated shipboard royal naval fire-fighting tasks. Ergonomics 44(8):766–780

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Bilzon JLJ, Scarpello EG, Bilzon E, Allsopp AJ (2002) Generic task-related occupational requirements for royal naval personnel. Occ Med 52(8):503–510

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Bink B (1962) The physical working capacity in relation to working time and age. Ergonomics 5(1):25–28

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Bona Fide Occupational Requirements and Bona Fide Justifications under the Canadian Human Rights Act: The Implications of Meiorin and Grismer. Canadian Human Rights Commission, Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada 2007. ISBN 978-0-662-49885-8

  10. Chatterjee S, Chatterjee P, Mukherjee PS, Bandyopadhyay A (2004) Validity of Queen’s college step test for use with young Indian men. British J Sports Med 38:289–291

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Cink RE, Thomas TR (1981) Validity of the Astrand-Ryhming nomogram for predicting maximal oxygen uptake. British J Sports Med 15(3):182–185

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Davis PO, Dotson CO (1987) Job performance testing: an alternative to age discrimination. Med Sci Sports Exerc 19(2):179–185

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Davis JA, Frank MH, Whipp BJ, Wasserman K (1979) Anaerobic threshold alterations caused by endurance training in middle aged men. J Appl Physiol 46:1039–1046

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Doolittle TL, Spurlin O, Kaiyala K, Sovern D (1988) Physical demands of lineworkers In: Proceedings of the Human Factors Society—32nd Annual Meeting pp 632–636

  15. Epstein Y, Yanovich R, Moran DS, Heled Y (2012) Physiological employment standards IV: integration of women in combat units—physiological and medical considerations. Eur J Appl Physiol

  16. Gledhill N, Jamnik VK (1992) Development of fitness screening protocols for physically demanding occupations. Can J Sports Sci 17(3):222–227

    Google Scholar 

  17. Goldman RF (1999) Heat stress in industrial protective encapsulating garment. In: Martin WF, Gochfeld M (eds) Protecting personnel at hazardous waste sites, 3rd edn. Butterworth-Heinemann, Woburn, pp 295–355

    Google Scholar 

  18. Greenberg GJ, Berger RA (1983) A model to assess one’s ability to apprehend and restrain a resisting suspect in police work. J Occ Med 25(11):809–813

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Gumieniak R, Jamnik VK, Gledhill N (2011) Physical fitness bona fide occupational requirements for safety-related physically demanding occupations; development considerations. Health Fit J Can 4(2):47–52

    Google Scholar 

  20. Health and safety executive (2004) Getting to grips with manual handling. A short guide. Retrieved 2009. http://www.hse.gov.uk

  21. Jackson AS (1999) Physical working capacity and functional capacity evaluation system (Version 2.0) Lafayette Instrument, Indiana, US

  22. Jackson A, Osburn H (1984) Validity of isometric strength test for predicting performance in physically demanding tasks. In: Proceedings of the Human Factors Society—28th Annual Meeting, pp 452–454

  23. Jamnik VK, Thomas SG, Shaw JA, Gledhill N (2010a) Identification and characterization of the critical physically demanding tasks encountered by correctional officers. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 35(1):45–58

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Jamnik VK, Thomas SG, Burr JF, Gledhill N (2010b) Construction, validation, and derivation of performance standards for a fitness test for correctional officer applicants. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 35(1):59–70

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Jamnik VK, Gumienak R, Gledhill N (2012) Developing legally defensible physiological employment standards for prominent physically demanding public safety occupations; a Canadian perspective. Eur J Appl Physiol

  26. Louhevaara V, Smolander L, Korhonen O, Tuomi T (1986) Maximal working times with a self-contained breathing apparatus. Ergonomics 29(1):77–85

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  27. Marley WP, Linnerud AC (1976) Astrand-ryming step test norms for college students. British J Sports Med 10:76–79

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. Milligan GS, House JR, Long G, Tipton MJ (2010) A recommended minimum fitness standard for the oil and gas industry. Energy Institute Report. ISBN: 9780852935620

  29. Mital A, Nicholson AS, Ayoub MM (1997) A guide to manual materials handling, 2nd edn. Taylor and Francis, London

    Google Scholar 

  30. Nevill AM, Ramsbottom R, Williams C (1992) Scaling physiological measurements for individuals of different body size. Eur J Appl Physiol 65:110–117

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  31. NIOSH (1981) Work practices guide for manual handling. (Cincinnati, Ohio: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services), Report No. 81-122

  32. Pandolf KB, Givoni B, Goldman RF (1977) Predicting energy expenditure with loads while standing or walking very slowly. J Appl Physiol 43(4):577–581

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  33. Parijat P, Lockhart TE (2008) Effect of quadriceps fatigue on the biomechanics of gait and slip propensity. Gait Posture 28(4):568–573

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Payne W, Harvey J (2010) A framework for the design of physical employment tests and standards. Ergonomics 53(7):858–871

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  35. Ramsbottom R, Brewer J, Williams C (1988) A progressive shuttle run test to estimate maximal oxygen uptake. British J Sports Med 22:141–144

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  36. Rayson MP (2000) Fitness for work: the need for conducting a job analysis. J Occ Med 50(6):434–436

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  37. Rayson M, Holliman D, Belyavin A (2000) Development of physical selection procedures for the British army. Phase 2. Relationship between physical tests and criterion tasks. Ergonomics 43(1):73–105

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  38. Reilly T (2007) Fitness standards for the Royal National Life Boat Institution (RNLI) lifeboat crew. PhD Dissertation, University of Portsmouth

  39. Reilly T, Olinek S (2011) Occupational specific physical training for the casualty evacuation component of the Canadian land forces command physical fitness standard (LFCPFS). 2nd International congress on soldiers physical performance Jyvaskyla, Finland

  40. Reilly TJ, Tipton MJ (2005) Fitness standards for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution Lifeboat Crew. University of Portsmouth Report to the RNLI

  41. Reilly T, Tipton T (2010) A sub-maximal occupational aerobic fitness test alternative, when the use of heart rate is not appropriate. Work 36(3):333–337

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. Reilly R, Zedeck S, Tenopyr M (1979) Validity and fairness of physical ability tests for predicting performance in craft jobs. J App Psychol 64(3):262–274

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Reilly T, Wooler A, Tipton M (2006a) Occupational fitness standards for beach lifeguards Phase 1: the physiological demands of beach lifeguarding. Occ Med 56:6–11

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  44. Reilly T, Iggleden C, Gennser M, Tipton M (2006b) Occupational fitness standards for beach lifeguards Phase 2: the development of an easily administered fitness test. Occ Med 56:12–17

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  45. Rodgers SH (1988) Job evaluation in worker fitness determination. Occ Med 3(2):219–239

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  46. Shephard RJ, Bonneau J (2002) Assuring gender equity in recruitment standards for police officers. Can J Sports Sci 27(3):263–295

    Google Scholar 

  47. Stevenson JMJ, Bryant T, Andrew GM, Smith JT, French SL, Thomson JM, Deakin JM (1992) Development of physical fitness standards for Canadian armed forces, younger personnel. Can J Sport Sci 17(3):214–221

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  48. Sykes K, Roberts A (2004) The Chester step test—a simple yet effective tool for the prediction of aerobic capacity. Physiotherapy 90(4):183–188

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Taylor NAS, Groeller H (2003) Work-based physiological assessment of physically-demanding trades: a methodological overview. J Physiol Anthropol 22:73–81

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Truxillo DM, Paronto E, Collins M, Sulzer JL (2004) Effects of subject matter expert viewpoint on job analysis results. Public Per Manag 33(1):33–46

    Google Scholar 

  51. Tschakovsky ME, Hughson RL (1999) Interaction of factors determining oxygen uptake at the onset of exercise. J Appl Physiol 86(4):1101–1113

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  52. Wasserman K, Whipp BJ, Davis JA (1981) Respiratory physiology of exercise: metabolism gas exchange and ventilatory control. Int Review Physiol 23:149–211

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  53. Westerblad H, Burton JD, Lannergren H (1997) The effect of intracellular pH of contractile function in intact, single fibers of mouse muscle declines with increasing temperature. J Physiol 500:193–204

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  54. Whipp BJ (1994) The slow component of O2 uptake kinetics during heavy exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 26:1319

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  55. Yoshida T, Suda Y, Takeuchi N (1982) Endurance training regimen based upon arterial blood lactate: effects on anaerobic training threshold. J App Physiol 49:223–230

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

Mr Matthew Reed, HR Solutions (mr.hrsolutions@gmail.com). Mrs Wendy Wood, HM Maritime and Coastguard Agency. Dr David Salt and Dr Jim House, University of Portsmouth. Dr Nigel Taylor, University of Wollongong. The Energy Institute, UK. HM Maritime and Coastguard Agency, UK. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution, UK.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest in regard to this publication.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to M. J. Tipton.

Additional information

Communicated by Nigel A.S. Taylor.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Tipton, M.J., Milligan, G.S. & Reilly, T.J. Physiological employment standards I. Occupational fitness standards: objectively subjective?. Eur J Appl Physiol 113, 2435–2446 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-012-2569-4

Download citation

Keywords

  • Physiological/occupational employment standards
  • Health and safety
  • Fitness
  • Work