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Appl Ergon. 2017 Nov;65:233-239. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2017.06.021. Epub 2017 Jul 12.

Identifying the critical physical demanding tasks of paramedic work: Towards the development of a physical employment standard.

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University of Waterloo, Department of Kinesiology, 300 University Avenue West, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1, Canada.
School of Kinesiology, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.
Health Sciences and Kinesiology & Physical Education, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, ON, Canada.
Ottawa Paramedic Service, Ottawa, ON, Canada.


Public safety related occupations including police, fire and military commonly apply physical employment standard (PES) to facilitate job matching, an approach to evaluate if candidates demonstrate acceptable physical capabilities as required to perform the job safely and effectively. In Canada, paramedics remain as one of the few public safety occupations without an evidence-based, validated PES. The purpose of this study was to document and describe the physical demands of paramedic work and to identify the most physically demanding tasks. These outcomes are essential to inform the design and development of an evidence-based PES for the paramedic sector. Physical demands of paramedic work were documented and described using a direct observation-based task analysis technique. Five paramedic's were trained to document the physical demands of their work, then applied their training to observe more than 90 calls over the course of 20 full 12-h work shifts. Physical demands data were then listed in a survey, administered service-wide, where 155 frontline paramedics identified critically demanding tasks and rank-ordered physical demands from not physically demanding to very strongly demanding. Critically important and physically demanding tasks were identified such as: transferring a patient; loading or unloading a stretcher in to or out of the ambulance; performing CPR; and, raising and lowering a stretcher. It is important that a paramedic-based PES evaluate a candidate's physical capabilities to perform the critical and physically demanding tasks identified in this study.


Bona fide occupational requirement; Job-matching; Paramedics; Physical employment standard

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